There’s something to be said for designers who don’t need to push their own boundaries—those who have created such a reliable label that to design something unexpected would actually be worse than showing the same thing season after season. It’s not bad to have a consistent aesthetic, especially when it’s one that shapes the idea of ready-to-wear and the classic Americana ideals.
When Ralph Lauren introduced his line in the 1970s—first showing only women’s suits—the designer quickly became synonymous with preppy and sophisticated. His runways are always filled with intricately tailored separates, soft gowns, and lush fabrics. For his Fall/Winter 2014 collection, Lauren did it again with a series of winter whites, pale pinks, and lavenders, along with subtle nudes and greys, that floated down the runway in the form of elegant, slinky eveningwear, cashmere sweaters, comfortable-yet-chic fur coats, and a slew of turtle-necks matched with fitted skirts. Some may say it was too boring, too soft, too simple. But it was the elegance that we expected from Lauren…and he delivered.
This season, however, Lauren did do something different—he debuted his 25-piece Polo women’s line on the runway. The collection opened the show and served as a vast contrast to the high-end pieces that would follow in the later half of the show. The Polo girl was young and completely different than her more mature counterpart. Yet, despite the cut and color variations, the clothes were easily recognizable as Ralph. Neon cardigans with flared leather skirts were transformed with a black tie and beret, and flowing, Navaho-printed dresses (one of the designer’s favorites) provided the American touches the loyal customer has grown to anticipate. “I love the contrast of Polo’s cool eclectic spirit with the luxury and modern glamour of Collection,” the designer said. “Each represents my vision of the individuality and style.”
The same can be said for Michael Kors and Calvin Klein, who, like Lauren, presented collections that were reliable progressions of their brand. Kors, who recently became a billionaire, took inspiration from California and Big Sur, showing a-line skirts, oversized cardigans, deep neutrals, and chunky sweaters paired with flowing bottoms. Francisco Costa delivered a similar performance at Calvin Klein, presenting a collection that was 85% knitwear. The colors were earthy and neutral, and the cuts were impeccably tailored. The clothes, too, were comfortable, plush, and ladylike. But then again, aren’t they always?
Lauren, Kors, and Klein all have similar commercial value—their brands are readily recognizable and available on both an accessible and high-end scale—yet, somehow, these three designers in particular continue to show fresh variations of their classic looks season after season. Sometimes, we beg designers to shock us, wow us, knock us off our feet. And then other times, we show up just to see the same, reliable thing.