The icing on the fashion cake for New York Fashion Week took place outside the city in an old garage in Bedford Hills, New York. Of course, it would be remiss not to mention that the aforementioned garage belonged to American fashion icon Ralph Lauren and that the cars it housed are estimated to be worth $400 million. The extravagant scale and luxurious backdrop provided excitement and momentum for a collection that the industry proclaimed as energized and elegant, quintessentially American and impeccable.
While nice cars and high fashion are historically linked together by their heavy price tags and the conspicuous customers who buy them, there was a more direct connection on display here: Ralph Lauren’s five-decades-long dedication to hitting the pitch perfect intersection between form and function, aesthetics and pragmatism, yesterday and now. As models strode past a nearly priceless 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic nipped in houndstooth suiting and opulent ballgowns in racing stripe red, the American fashion sensibility came full circle — and from the man who created it.
It took a big-time show from a big-time designer like Mr. Lauren to back up (out of the city in his case) and provide clarity and perspective in a country and industry that is being pushed, jerked, kicked and pummeled in so many directions. In the face of accelerating change, certain sensibilities remain the same. In a widening crevasse between sides, there are still experiences that make us feel cohesiveness and solidarity, that remind us that having things in common is a goal and not a point of hostility or contentiousness.
As much chatter as there has been about the format of fashion shows needing change, other deviations from the traditional format felt more like antics than they did transformative. At Alexander Wang, models loaded up on buses and spilled out onto streets in three different parts of Manhattan in seemingly impromptu runway performances. Of course, security detail as well as permits and announcements were issued far ahead of time, which seemed to deflate part of the guerilla nature and certainly all the spontaneity.
Opening Ceremony, known for its experimentation with its shows, presented a musical in collaboration with director Spike Jonze, using the spring collection to reveal the emotions and circumstances of the characters rather than words. Both the storyline and the collection, while interesting, seemed to provide more spectacle than substance. Then BMX bikes turning tricks at Fenty x Puma, a no-show Kanye West at the Yeezy show, a dress made of credit cards at Vaquera.
Outside of the smoke and mirrors, the trends felt predictable if not a bit staid — deconstructed button-ups, low-slung trousers, filmy tops mixed with sharp-shouldered blazers. The usual suspects of pastels, OD green and white were delivered in layered spaghetti-strap dresses and tops, full-legged trousers and pared down jackets, the notable difference from past seasons being the overt numbers of plus-sized, pregnant, ethnic and transgender models present at shows. It made one wonder at times if the designers spent as much time pursuing the agenda of changing cultural norms as they did designing clothes. Fortunately for us, fashion sits on the same axiomatic premise as all ideas that quality and beauty are inherently diverse, expressive and deep. No need for a bag of tricks, even if it is made of French taffeta.