Ralph Lauren timeless, but not timely
Got to hand it to Ralph Lauren. He is one gentleman who definitely has moxie. That might be Mafia slang for aggression, but it also denotes spirit in the face of adversity. Which he has in spades.
Lauren’s business continues to be buffeted by disappointing sales: the millennials have practically deserted him; the Instagram era is passing him by and his product offer has barely evolved in years. Yet, he’s still out there taking his languid ovation, marching the full length of his catwalk in Skylight Studios at the Hudson River at the end of this latest runway show.
Embracing his wife Ricky, and greeting a few front-row movie stars, Monday morning's guests included Katie Holmes and Hilary Swank. Lauren was dressed in a classic double-breasted blazer, denim jeans and Western boots that looked incongruous after the show, given it was inspired by his vacation home in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Following two tough years, Ralph Lauren results have fared even worse recently, as the house suffered a 10-percent fall in revenues in the final quarter of 2017 in North America. And, despite some growth in China, revenues worldwide fell over four percent.
This collection will hardly fare much better. It did open sprightly with some charming frocks done in worn boardwalk or seashell prints and featured a couple of great denim looks, in particular an acid-dyed denim cocktail trimmed with blue feathers worn by supermodel Bella Hadid.
However, far too often this was a naïve revamping of lots of his classic Hamptons vacation fare overlaid with Caribbean imagery. Endless kipper ties with classic yacht prints and knitted sweaters with ocean liners. As for the chisel-jawed men in the show, most of them looked like cartoon characters out of a 'Dick Tracy goes on holiday' film.
The music at the finale was by Jamaica’s greatest musician, Bob Marley’s 'Is This Love', and the set was a version of his Caribbean home with venetians blinds and lounge chairs. Almost an expression of the designer’s longing for a moment of tranquility as the fashion empire he founded gets buffeted so brutally.
"Everyone wishes for a magical place where they can step out of time into the beauty of nature… My collections for women and men conjure up the carefree, sophisticated style of this special experience - exuberant, luxurious, timeless," said the 78-year-old Ralph in his program notes.
Now there is timeless, and there is timely, which is something this collection clearly was not.
All told, Lauren is the latest example - at a tricky moment in fashion - of a powerful established brand failing to react quickly enough to rapid changes in market tastes. Another house caught blindside by American retail woes, and above all by the web, and its new breed of consumers.
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