Farewell New York Fashion Week: Show Reviews of Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs

To close out NYFW, Lauren transformed his mansion into an orangerie of sorts, while Jacobs staged a piece of hip-hop-inspired fashion theater at the Armory.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty

Ralph Lauren by Lizzie Crocker

Unlike last season, there was no shopping extravaganza following Ralph Lauren’s see-now-buy-now fashion show on Wednesday night at the designer’s New York City flagship store. The designer made his first foray into the see-now-buy-now market last year, opening his Madison Ave store to his wealthy uptown and international clientele following back-to-back runway presentations.

It was a tough act to follow, but Lauren’s show Wednesday night was far from your typical retail experience. The designer transformed his Upper East Side mansion into an orangerie of sorts. An orchid show served as the backdrop for his Spring 2017 collection, and Lauren made sure every wall surface in his two-story flagship was covered with thousands of orchids and a few automated butterflies, which opened and closed their wings.

Guests were greeted by the sound of chirping birds as they took their seats, which were covered in expensive-looking white slipcovers (VIPs sat on down-filled cushions).

The first floor was mostly reserved for Lauren’s well-heeled clientele, while editors and industry bigwigs were seated in different rooms upstairs. It was a beautiful, brilliantly executed setup, so that guests in each section of Lauren’s orangerie would feel as if they were being treated to their own private show.

The setup echoed the designer’s luxury ethos: Everything Lauren does is done to perfection. And VIPs get special treatment at Lauren’s shows, but the rest of us do too, allowing for a momentary collapse of social order.

This reporter was seated in the far corner of a rectangular room upstairs but could still closely see the details of Lauren’s designs and the contours of Bella Hadid's cheekbones. As for the designs, there was a clear safari theme that manifested in shades of sand and beige for daywear and accessories in animal prints. Kendall Jenner, aloft on python-print platform sandals and carrying a large cheetah-print tote, wore a crisp nude blazer and creamy leather moto pants. Utilitarian jumpsuits came in brocade silk and black leather, and sweeping satin gowns in jewel tones made for quintessential Ralph Lauren eveningwear.

The freshest pieces riffed on anoraks, like Bella Hadid’s burnt orange satin dress, and the show’s closing look: a sporty, floor-length cape dress in a shimmery floral print worn over faded denim jeans. These were quintessential Ralph, too, but with an edge for his younger customers.

The spry 77-year-old designer made his way through the lush maze of his mansion, stopping in every room to wave graciously at his guests.

Politics had not entered this reporter’s mind until that point. Of course, Lauren dressed Melania Trump on Inauguration Day, after others, including Naeem Khan, had refused.

Lauren is a bipartisan designer: He’s dressed Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, who also wore one of his designs to the inaugural ceremony this year. There was predictable blowback after the first lady appeared in a Jackie O-esque, robin’s egg blue dress by the designer. The hashtag #boycottralphlauren began trending, but others applauded the bold move.

Lauren has never endorsed a presidential candidate, nor has he publicly revealed any party affiliation. His high-fashion designs are for all (wealthy) Americans, regardless of which side of the political aisle they stand on.

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Marc Jacobs by Tim Teeman

New York Fashion Week ended, as it began for this reporter, with a blast of cold air. Thirty-six degrees in Manhattan, and arriving a few minutes late outside the imposing hull of the Armory arts venue, spanning the girth between Park and Lexington avenues, I saw Marc Jacobs's models—who had moments before proceeded between rows of editors sitting in two long lines—now outside, lounging and sitting on fold-out chairs, snapping those who usually snapped them on their own phones.

Inside, editors had been forbidden from taking pictures of the show. In their first moments being seen, Jacobs wanted to control how his clothes were seen.

The models wore Stephen Jones hats, which Jacobs wrote in his notes, “take their cues from the haberdashery and elegance of Andre 3000.” To this viewer they seemed like Space Age cloche, a style-dome, speaking of the King’s Road, circa 1966; David Bailey snapping a model at the traffic lights, leaning at a jaunty angle.

But the 1960s was not the intended historical impetus for Jacobs. He said he had been inspired by hip-hop, and particularly the Netflix documentary Hip-Hop Evolution. “This collection is my representation of the well-studied dressing up of casual sportswear,” he wrote. “It is an acknowledgement and gesture of respect for the polish and consideration applied to fashion from a generation that will forever be the foundation of youth culture street style.”

The theater and originality of Jacobs’s show was appropriate given its performance venue setting, and featured star models like Kendall Jenner and Winnie Harlow. Katy Perry, Lil’ Kim, and This Is Us star Mandy Moore were among the audience.

There were beautiful fur coats over short dresses, very slouchy trousers and sweaters, and one very relaxed, blood-red tracksuit. Preppy, fitted tartan jackets, with frisky fur trims, made this spectator think Cher from Clueless was about to appear.

The art of both the clothes and presentation was intertwined: playful and precise, boho and self-consciously glamorous. There were extravagantly flared trousers, loose, zip-up cardigans, a golden mini-skirt, a metallic blue jersey dress flecked with gold. Later came richer colors like a plum jacket (trimmed with shearling) and trousers worn by Jenner, and a beige coat with a vivid blood-red trim.

On the models’ feet were calf-length boots, platform loafers, and chunky, platform boots.

Other striking outfits played with layering and two-tone browns and beiges, and one belted coat came with fur not just around the neck but as muffs on both sleeves. Oh, to be hugged by someone wearing that coat.

Jacobs’s imaginative show closed Fashion Week, with—in a neat piece of circularity—the models photographing the photographers, journalists, bloggers, and general gawkers of this colorful circus. The watched had turned on the watchers. Lucky for them, they also enjoyed the benefit—which photographers rarely do—of sitting beneath heat lamps.