Nobody embodies The American Dream quite like Ralph Lauren. The designer is indisputably the king of East Coast prep, defining and redefining the meaning of casual sportswear for over half a century. Yet he also does Old Hollywood glamour flawlessly, with classic, timeless, and, of course, sexy pieces. His love of both New York and Los Angeles is apparent throughout his storied career, but last night, Lauren showed his approach to modern American luxury in California for the very first time, as he stated via press release, “sharing my worlds in an experience that celebrates a way of life I have always believed in—a mix of grit and glamour, energy and inspiration.”
Lauren has eschewed the fashion week schedule for a few years now, choosing to show when—and where—he is ready. This time around, he decamped to the The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif. to show the Hollywood set how he does high fashion. He California-fied the Polo Bar, bringing his signature American fare to guests like Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (the couple’s first public appearance since their wedding), Diane Keaton, and Jessica Chastain, among many others, before debuting the World of Ralph Lauren, spring 2023 edition.
For the uninitiated, Ralph Lauren has several labels under its umbrella that diversify the company’s offering and complete its all-encompassing vision. There’s Ralph Lauren Collection (his usual runway pieces), Ralph Lauren Purple Label (think: timeless suiting and everyday luxury), RRL (super-luxe Americana-infused ready-to-wear), and Polo (the casual prep he’s become known for). Lauren brought all four of these distinct aesthetics together in an extensive and comprehensive show against the stunning backdrop of a cool California fall evening.
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The show opened with the Western-leaning RRL offering, infusing tailoring and flowing bias-cut dresses with classic Americana references like cowboy boots and hats, along with Canadian tuxedos fit for any Western movie. The Purple Label sequence that followed was Lauren’s take on day dressing for the SoCal glitterati, with tan suede coats, linen short suits, and a particularly fabulous bomber jacket with bugle bead embroidery. This led into a string of Collection looks that were all about red, white, and blue, leaning heavily on nautical references with all the ease of a sunny West Coast day. Slinky sequin dresses and crisp white tailoring contrasted with painterly touches on maxi skirts and jeans, completing the range of Cali chic.
The Polo section truly demonstrated Lauren’s keen eye for authentic, gritty everyday style that has made him so relevant year after year. Sets of models, families, and mothers with children and friends strutted through the library courtyard in cable-knit sweaters paired with easy colorful chinos. Patchwork jeans were elevated with madras button-downs and unexpected wooden jewelry. The energy was exciting, with Sia’s rendition of “California Dreaming” blasting through the speakers as the modern-day Lauren families took the runway.
The finale saw Polo meet the Collection line, with sweeping taffeta skirts layered with Polo sweatshirts and Collection bags. The final showing of ballgowns resembled sails ready to hit the Pacific, with saturated neon taffeta skirts flowing effortlessly on A-line silhouettes, all grounded with easy Polo accessories that were as natural and no-frills as the models’ barely-there makeup. It was a breath of fresh air to see Lauren lean into the Californication that has inspired him throughout his career, and bring a fresh new look to the World of Ralph Lauren, one that is as casual as it is considered and thoughtful. The West Coast energy combined with the East Coast sensibility provided one of the best, distinctly American shows we’ve seen this year.
Kevin LeBlanc is the Fashion Associate at ELLE Magazine. He covers fashion news, trends, and anything to do with Robyn Rihanna Fenty.