After a very, very long month of shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris, you might think the last thing the fashion crowd would want to do is attend yet another runway in mid-October. And, generally speaking, you'd be right. But Ralph Lauren's Spring 2023 show on Thursday in California — accurately dubbed "a special fashion experience" by the brand — felt more like a reward than a chore. A week ago, I was a burnt-out, jet-lagged shell of a person; but on Thursday night, I was living my best life with J.Lo.
No expense was spared for Ralph Lauren's first-ever west-coast show, and every detail felt like a little treat: a personal car service to the venue — the stunning, sprawling Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens just outside of Los Angeles; a sunset cocktail hour on a lovely veranda; Sylvester Stallone enjoying the view with his family; Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher air-kissing John Legend; Diane Keaton comparing outfits with Chris Pine; and, just before the show began, Jennifer Lopez (a recent wedding client) and Ben Affleck squeezing between Keaton and Jessica Chastain in the front row.
Everything was living up to the reputation Ralph Lauren set in its pre-Covid years. From the September 2017 show in the designer's own garage to the Spring 2019 50th-anniversary blowout in Central Park to Fall 2019's intimate black-tie affair, the brand was making "special fashion experiences" the norm. And after a pandemic-mandated respite, it jumped back in for Fall 2022 with a show at the MoMA in New York. Thursday's event, however, arguably blew them all out of the water. Members of the brand's own team said it eclipsed the 50th anniversary — and it wasn't just because of the A-list audience or scenic venue: The collection itself (over 100 looks spanning Ralph Lauren's Collection, Purple Label, Double RL, Polo Ralph Lauren and Childrenswear labels) is a stellar representation of everything the brand does best.
The show began with southwestern-inspired daywear styled with the coolest rugged cowboy boots and silver belts and jewelry, effortlessly preppy linen tailoring and lightweight knits — all of which look very at home in southern California. Subtly nautical pieces in red, navy and white make up a casually elegant "seaside glamour" section.
The Polo offering includes a more relaxed, skateboard-ready take on the brand's collegiate prep, as well as colorful, of-the-moment gorpcore that recalls Ralph Lauren's own late-'90s heyday. And then there's the childrenswear: It's really impossible to get a negative impression from a show that includes toddlers walking down a runway in cute little fashions — it could feel unfair and gimmicky if it weren't so on-brand for the family-oriented Ralph Lauren. Finally, understated-yet-glamorous Collection eveningwear sparkled in the twilight, destined for an instantly classic red-carpet moment.
Immediately following the show was an immaculate seated dinner for every attendee catered by (who else?) the Polo Bar, with most guests opting for massive, bacon-laced burgers — served in a synchronized style by a seemingly endless parade of Ralph Lauren-clad waiters.
Despite such grand display from beginning to end, the vibe was neither exclusive nor intimidating. It was civilized yet relaxed, with A-listers mingling comfortably with the reporters, editors, clients and TikTokers making up the rest of the crowd, as if we were all somehow on the same level. (Except for Bennifer — they left after the show.)
It was an impressive, if over-the-top, production and a reminder that Lauren — who turns 83 on Friday — is more than a star designer; he's an institution who defies time, trends and financial limitations, time and time again. To be frank, for a less beloved designer, my interpretation of such overt extravagance may have been more critical, but if you're lucky enough to get the opportunity, you just can't help wanting to indulge in the magic of Ralph Lauren, especially after a rough few weeks.
See the full Ralph Lauren Spring 2023 collection in the gallery below.