Spring/Summer 2017 has been a roller coaster so far, and we’re only just hitting the home stretch of the first of four Fashion Weeks. From massive displays at Yeezy Season 4 and Tommy Hilfiger to quiet, private collections shown by Derek Lam and Tom Ford to the first visible signs of how the industry is reshaping itself to include consumer-facing shows, this ride has been nothing short of dizzying.
That being said, the penultimate climax to New York Fashion Week’s finale occurred on Wednesday evening when Ralph Lauren showed a literally traffic-stopping collection. Not only did the brand stage a massive “see now, buy now” show that was laboriously constructed and signed off by city officials, but it also closed down Madison Avenue in order to do so. The team at Ralph Lauren had to convince the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination to shut down the street, acquire dozens of permits, inform the neighboring church of their plans, erect an enormous tent outside the Ralph Lauren store, and make sure that the collection was ready for sale instantly upon the presentation’s completion. If that doesn’t illustrate the power of the Ralph Lauren name and its importance in the history of American fashion, nothing will.
The team at Ralph Lauren had to convince the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination to shut down the street.
For the first portion of the show, Ralph Lauren touched on brand signatures, namely the frontierswoman and the cowgirl in all their Americana glory. This meant suede chaps, embroidered cowboy shirts, fringed ponchos, and clinging crocheted gowns. While the first half of this theme dealt in literal interpretations of Old West style (so much so that they could have been costuming from a Clint Eastwood film), the latter portion blended Westernwear and high-octane glamour in the form of ivory goddess gowns, purple silk pant suits, and a colorful smattering of sequined slip dresses.
Like other major American sportswear brands, Ralph Lauren has been negatively impacted by the consumer’s expectation for 24/7 discounts. Recently, the brand has had to shutter some retail stores and has been trying to correct this course in order to improve sales, which have dropped in recent years. As a publicly traded company that is beholden to shareholder expectations, Ralph Lauren is extraordinarily keen on making the “see now, buy now” model work. For that reason, the brand’s latest collection skewed older in an attempt to tempt the wallets of women who have the kind of money to spend on full-price, in-season looks. Only next quarter’s reports will be able to provide clues as to the success of this strategy.