By Miles Socha
Still cinematic, but easier to imagine off the big screen: that was the big takeaway from Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label presentation at its Milan palazzo.
The ginormous flower arrangements were still spectacular, the canapés delectable and the impossibly handsome models arranged in distinct genres. Adventurers had their rugged, Army green field jackets and linen cargo pants; Art Deco dandies their cream or black dinner jackets with demonstrative peaked lapels; and sailors their taut, striped sweaters and sleek storm coats edged in leather.
Ralph Lauren Purple Label Men’s Spring 2017
The remaining dapper gents were arranged by color story — muddy browns, deep blues or pale grays — and no snappy signifier came immediately to mind, or was proffered by the publicists. This is a good thing.
While the spring collection still oozed that inimitable Old World polish, it should be easier for customers to project themselves on to trim, two-button suits in a bouncy linen-silk blend; a cashmere sweater with a subtle chevron pattern and air spun to a dissolving softness, or a silky shirt with flap pockets tucked into tapered pants in the same fabric. Sun-bleached espadrilles, rope sandals and suede sneakers helped knock the grandeur out of the ensembles.
There were a few things to set one dreaming, including elaborately embroidered military jumpsuits and a gleaming surfboard made of the same burl wood found on the steering wheel of one of Lauren’s treasured Bugattis.
But everything seemed more legible and uncluttered at a time when consumers are in charge — and Ralph Lauren Corp. has hit a tough patch.
Stefan Larsson, the group’s new president and chief executive officer, has vowed to speed up the supply chain; focus on the core collections of Ralph Lauren, Polo and Lauren; shutter stores, and eliminate management layers that will result in job cuts.
Part of his Way Forward plan seemed to be visible here as the company jettisons unproductive styles and amplifies iconic ones. The corporation already identified the army jacket, tweed jacket, safari jacket, peacoat, duffle coat, oxford shirt, military shirt, cargo pants and Aran cable sweater. They were all on display in Milan. The corporation is serious.