Have Ralph Lauren's designs suddenly become young and contemporary again -- or is it the '90s revival that's making them look that way? That was my first thought upon the conclusion of Lauren's Pre-Fall 2014 show -- yes, a real show, not clothes on racks! -- staged at the designer's Madison Avenue flagship Wednesday morning. Regardless, it was a beautiful collection, full of soft, easy, well-cut and wearable pieces. Here are five things I liked about it.
1. It's so nice to be at a real show. Few designers do a full-on show to present their pre-fall and resort collections -- usually, someone from the public relations department walks you through racks of clothing. And it's not until you're at a pre-fall show like Oscar de la Renta's or Ralph Lauren's that you remember how much the models and setting affect the feeling you have for a collection -- in a good way. Lauren's was staged on the second floor of his women's and home flagship at 888 Madison Avenue. Models made their entrances beneath a chandelier, backed by a fireplace laden with white roses. The runway was covered in a cream fabric. All of it felt elegant, special and somewhat intimate, not least because Lauren's family all sat enthusiastically front row.
2. A tight palette signals a strong direction. Lauren managed not to stray beyond grays and creams for his pre-fall collection, and as a result it felt clear and cohesive. The interplay of textures -- leather and suede, checked wool and floaty chiffon, feathers and fur -- kept it interesting, as did the lovely, delicate pleating that adorned feminine dresses and skirts, like the dress that opened the show.
3. The movement of the clothes. This collection was one that needed to be seen on walking models to be appreciated: particularly the floating skirt shown in look 20, which was fascinating to watch. (The collar's movements were less appealing, as it kept looking as if it might flip up on her face.)
4. A suede pant and matching ankle boots look really good. Look 6 combined tan-colored suede leggings with near-matching boots: It looked good and far more wearable than a thigh-high suede boot.
5. Mixing off-the-shoulder with fur. I don't know that it was a "good" look per se, but I liked the sweater in look 12: a casual, off-the-shoulder ribbed gray knit, cut long in front, with gray shearling cuffs. The mix of casualness and fur was both sexy and unexpected. It seemed like something Erika Bearman, a.k.a. OscarPRGirl, might wear.
To see all the looks, click through the slideshow below.