Ralph Lauren September 2016
Ralph Lauren September 2016 Collection. Photo credit: Elizabeth Pantaleo

If Stetson Hats were a publicly traded company, their stock price would soar tomorrow morning. For the second time today, we’ve seen an incredibly beautiful line of luxury Western wear. Both are incredibly different, but unapologetically Western and at the core of both were beautiful black Western hats. No matter whether you buy anything from either collection, you’re going to need a hat for this fall and going into next spring. In fact, don’t be surprised if next spring we see Western as the new annoying trend that everyone follows. So, go ahead and get your hats now before the prices go up.

While you’re at it, might as well go ahead and get the boots, too. Ralph went for the black, pointed-toe variety this season, giving several looks a very traditional feel, despite the luxury of the clothes themselves. He was smart enough to not try and force the boots on every look, though, and his choice of chunky heels works whether one is on the sidewalks of Madison Avenue, where tonight’s show was staged, or the ragged concrete of downtown Red Oak, Oklahoma (if you know how to find Red Oak, Oklahoma).

The big difference between the Ralph Lauren and Anna Sui collections, of course, is how each interpret luxury. Where Ms. Sui went for a kitschy Americana, Lauren played it straight, with more traditional Western-style embroidery, snap-down Western-styled shirts, and trousers that tended to follow the same silhouette as a pair of well-fitting jeans. In fact, I was a little surprised that Lauren didn’t include a tight pair of dark-wash jeans. The slacks worn by Kendall Jenner almost looked like denim but were a much softer fabric.

Soft is a good way to describe almost all of this collection. There is a tremendous amount of silk and satin throughout the clothes, most of it in darker tones of black and deep brown. There are occasional touches of leather, including a very traditional bomber jacket and a couple of plaid flannel shirts, but everything is given the luxury treatment so that what connects to the skin is as smooth and soft as possible.

Silhouettes are pretty much what one would expect. Western-styled shirts, some straight-legged pants, others with flared bottoms were most common. There were plenty of differently-styled ponchos, including several with designs similar to those of native tribes from what is now Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Much of the very large jewelry also tried to infer a native tribes source, though the materials in use would not have been the same.

Perhaps equally as important as the clothes is that this show represents a kind of new start for the 76-year-old designer. The brand has a new CEO several years the designer’s junior and it was his leadership that convinced Lauren to try the see-now, buy-now concept, which wasn’t announced to the public until yesterday. As a result, there were two shows this evening, one for editors and buyers, and then a second for “label faithfuls.” Upon the completion of the second show, Lauren waived everyone into his Madison Avenue flagship store where most of the evening’s designs were already on sale. Including those black hats.

Another first is the fact that the label gave up it’s traditional Thursday-morning show slot in order to show tonight. The entire week, we’ve seen top-name designers prefer a late-starting show time. My guess is that, being well after work and after dinner, more people faithful to the label are able to watch live streams of the various shows.

At the end of the second show, Ralph stepped out wearing an old denim shirt, a pair of faded jeans, and soft brown shoes. He had changed from the first show, where he’d included a leather vest, tweed blazer, and cowboy boots. The 76-year-old designer is still doing his best to keep his hands on the reigns. The fashion business today is a lot different than when he started some 50 years ago. Be sure, his grip is firm and this wagon still follows his lead.

‘Night ya’ll.

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