It's the brand that is many things to many people: preppy cool for some, black tie failsafe for others but at New York fashion week it was all kinds of everything as Ralph Lauren showed not one but two autumn/winter 2014 collections.
Along with his ready-to-wear collection, as expected, the Polo line – aimed at a younger consumer, with a more accessible price point – was shown on the catwalk for the first time.
It was Polo that came out first. A successful sub-label in the Lauren empire, Polo peddles preppy classics to men but this was the first time the brand has created the equivalent wardrobe for its female customer. The clothes here fitted with the established aesthetic in menswear – there were citrus–hued puffa jackets, bright sweaters and a lot of the green and blue tartan that has become the trademark of the Lauren clan.
Other American archetypes were explored too. The cowboy that Lauren has honed throughout his career became a cowgirl – see fringed jackets and geometric south-western patterns, the kind seen on classic ponchos, here on slouchy cardigans and backpacks.
The 70s student type – think Ali MacGraw in Love Story – had her moment too. Boyfriend-fit tweed jackets worn over pretty floral dresses were charming, and a pinstripe suit paired with a plaid shirt had that smart-casual contrast just right. Put together, it was a collection that – with a pair of waterproof boots, perhaps – could have walked straight off the runway and on to the streets outside.
The main line – Ralph Lauren Collection – was anything but. Lauren contrasted the young, cute look of Polo – clothes that regular people will buy, and wear – with ones that are worthy of the red carpet. The first look here – a crepe ivory dress – was exquisite but would not have got on well with the greying snow.
This theme continued. With a delicate colour palette of ivory, rose pink, pearly grey and the lightest of heather, these were clothes that demanded the immaculate lifestyle of the wealthy women who will buy them. Eveningwear comprised of the finely beaded flapper-influenced gowns that have become a Lauren favourite, neat trousers and an asymmetric top with flowing satin train, and simple fitted satin slipdresses.
Fine knit cashmere was an option for day. Model Karlie Kloss – wearing oversized trench, chunky turtleneck and wide–legged trousers – was a vision in winter white, albeit one that would require a lot of drycleaning.
Putting these two shows back to back prompted a standing ovation from the audience. It also performed a neat trick: showing, with Ralph Lauren, it's two for the price of one. It dates back to 1967 when Lauren designed a line of neck ties and the success can be put down to the brand's eclectic nature. This continues. Lauren has been dressing David Beckham in recent weeks, and Lupita Nyong'o's red, caped gown for the Golden Globes last month was by Lauren. Sales are strong – third quarter net revenues in 2013 were up 9% to £1.2bn with the Ralph Lauren Collection and Polo performing well.