Dispatches from New York: The Big Three

Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

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1. Marc Jacobs 2. Calvin Klein 3. Ralph Lauren

What do you do when you’ve trimmed, beaded, bowed, tassled and sequined every scrap of dark cloth in sight? How do you come back from not one but two epic shows? After last season’s double-whammy of fabulousness that was his own show and his final show for Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and his team had to pull something big out of the hat. They needed a fresh start, a clean slate, a powerful new idea. It came in the form of ‘serenity’ – that was the buzzword backstage. Front of house, we saw clouds – hundreds of puffy, white clouds, suspended midway between audience and ceiling, that changed not just the mood, but the physical sensation of the Armoury, Jacobs’ longtime show venue.

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Likewise, the clothes were opposite to everything that had gone before: serene, yes, stripped away and pale. They could practically be accused of minimalism – Jacobs hates any literal reference; everything is about layers of ideas that are reworked and refined right up to the moment of the show, with the aim of producing a crescendo of surprising, surreal, sensational theatre. It was as if the clothes were ‘built' along with the serene sensation, from spare slim jersey dresses, to ribbed knitted tunics, to cashmere trousers, to voluminous fur bomber jackets, before gently receding once more to slender, layered watercolour chiffons as fine as mist. The specially commissioned soundtrack, which featured the voice of Jessica Lange, chanted over and over: ‘Happy days are here again’.

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Left to right: Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren

‘Rugged’ was the word that sprung to mind watching the Calvin Klein show. It was there in the big, stomping 12-hole boots in glossy ponyskin, the robust knitted dresses that hung in pleats or blocky architectural panels, and the coats – big, capacious, fuzzy mohair coats with their grids of seams left raw. The coats were the real standouts – one in ochre, another in orangey pink – they fastened at the waist with a substantial safety pin that also held a large glass bead or coloured stone in place. It was a real departure for Francisco Costa – less arty more outdoorsy. He’d really sunk his teeth into texture with artisan tweeds, brushed cashmere and stuff called ‘technical compact mohair’. It looked like powerful stuff on the runway but it made you wonder how Costa’s uncompromising vision would translate on to the shop rail. Will women really want to wear such hot and itchy fabrics? How challenging is a mohair dress without sleeves in winter? Those boots, on the other hand, will go down a New York storm.

Ralph Lauren took his bow in bright, red-laced snow boots. It was a humorous pun at the weather and a visual reminder that New York’s elder statesman still thinks 'young'. Perhaps that was also the reason for launching his youthful new Polo line on the runway. He started out with a trio of girls in little black dresses and footless tights, then segued into sporty jackets in poster-paint orange and yellow, then we were into rich traditional Ralph territory – all plaids, pinstripes, Fair Isles, florals and flying jackets. This must have been the first time thick wooly socks ever made it onto a Ralph Lauren runway. For the Women’s Collection that followed, Mr Lauren showed the breadth of his world by switching into glamour mode with winter white, soft pink and pearl grey. Luxury is never something he does by halves: Karlie Kloss came out wrapped head to toe in cream cashmere, swinging a winter white crocodile bag. He ticked off all the Ralph Lauren signatures – the elegant jumpsuit, the tux, the menswear tailoring and some very dreamy gowns. But it was the long, pale grey jersey skirt, split to the thigh and worn with a simple grey cashmere polo neck, that summed up the most contemporary way to wear Ralph Lauren today.

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