Ralph’s ‘Garage’ Sale

Need more proof that this is Ralph’s world and we’re all just living in it?

I was fascinated by the news that Ralph Lauren would show his fall 2017 “see-now–buy-now” collection at his private garage in Bedford, New York, with his enviable treasure trove of museum worthy automobiles as a backdrop for both his Purple label menswear and womenswear lines. (And you thought taking a ferry to the Brooklyn Navy Yards for Alexander Wang’s 2014 collection, or high-tailing it to Roosevelt Island for Yeezy Season 4 last September was a trek!)

Ralph in his garage

The avowed car obsessed fashion legend’s collection of more than 70 extremely rare cars (he owns some of the best antique cars known to man) is perhaps the highest-valued in the world, estimated by Forbes to be worth at least $300 million (17 cars from his collection were exhibited at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris in 2011). He has said, “I’ve always seen cars as art. Moving art”. This will be the first time the garage, which has been described as purposely non-descript from the outside (it’s not on his property as many think, but close by), will have been used for an event, let alone a fashion show.

Coincidentally, the announcement came on the heels of my report, “Making NYFW Great Again! Fashion Insiders Weigh In”, during which time I asked fashion insiders to weigh in with comments, criticism, and suggestions. Unsurprisingly, the Fashion Calendar, the scheduling of shows, and the location of show venues were a big topic of discussion, with many pressing for some sort of centralization or at the very least, a logistical plan to make things easier for buyers and press. The New York Fashion Week calendar comes out on Friday and it’s already shaping up to be a season of many changes.

Ralph’s cars on exhibition in Paris

There was a time when you could tell what day it was (and the time of day) by who was showing, and where they were showing. It was like fashion’s version of the 1969 movie “If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium” lol. Well, those days are long gone. Proenza Schouler, Joseph Altuzarra, Monique Lhuillier, and Thom Browne have left New York for Paris, and Tommy Hilfiger will move his show to London this season. Narciso Rodriguez, who was to show on the same night as Ralph, has decided against having a formal show, and will instead, stage smaller showroom presentations on the first official day of NYFW. At a time when many top designers are pulling out, or are going small, leave it to Ralph to go big! And thank goodness, because what NYFW needs now, more than anything, is a jolt, a buzz, a knock your socks off excitement. His show will not only be a fashion happening, he’s making it personal! His garage is obviously a place that is a source of enormous pleasure, satisfaction, and pride (as well it should be), and it is very meaningful for him. Opening it up to the public in this manner is symbolic and indicative of where he is at this stage in his life. He turns 78 in October and will be celebrating his 50th anniversary next year!

“Of course, some might say and justly so, at a time when New York Fashion Week needs more support America’s most iconic designer is basically abandoning the city and moving his show 40 miles north to his garage. Does Ralph really need the distraction of all those fabulous cars? Are not the clothes enough? How is his choice of venues a reflection on everyone working together to make Fashion Week more effective?”

Regardless, Ralph’s show promises to be vintage Ralph, has all the earmarks of a bona fide fashion moment and will no doubt garner much press. The man is a class act; a perfectionist with impeccable taste. There will be no stones left unturned, and it will all be picture perfect like everything he does. A glimpse inside his stores is a glimpse inside his homes. His life, his style and his fashion are completely intertwined into one fabulous stage set and it’s hard to separate one from the other, which is a large part of his success.

Notwithstanding an unspecified number of store closures, a reduction in workforce, closure of certain corporation operations, and the departure of CEO Stefan Larsson in February (he was replaced by Patrice Louvet who began his career at Procter & Gamble so let’s just say he knows a thing or two about branding) Ralph Lauren is undisputedly one of the most successful designers on the planet and a true American original who has built one of the world’s most iconic fashion brands and lifestyle empires. It was his “brilliant creative vision and business acumen, and the audacity with which he fused the two into a $7.5 billion dollar global empire” that earned him WWD’s inaugural John B. Fairchild Honor last year (among other honors, awards and accolades too numerous to mention). From the start, he has had a singular vision and he’s been a master at honing in on that vision, literally creating his own alternative universe. Not bad for a kid from the Bronx who began sewing neckties out of a cramped rental in the Empire State Building in 1967 and eventually shake up American menswear.

As for the unapologetically out of the way location (it’s at the very least, a 40 minute drive from New York). Ken Downing, in his comments to me last week (which I included in my report), noted, “if you want to show on the moon, fine, go with NASA. If you want to show in Brooklyn after 7 p.m.; that’s fine with me”. While Ralph’s show is not quite as inaccessible as the moon, it is not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump from midtown Manhattan. But thankfully it’s scheduled for 7 pm, and transportation will be provided (what would really be impressive, is if guests were to be helicoptered back and forth). The fact that you can’t walk to it, or get there by hopping on the subway guarantees exclusivity and no crashers. One can’t exactly show up with the tired excuse: “Oh well, I was just in the neighborhood”, unless of course, you happen to live in the tony town of Bedford. It’s not only going to be exclusive (invitees will be a select group of press, editors, and clients and you can be certain there will be a number of a list stars in the midst), but formal (there will be a dinner afterwards and guests will be asked to dress in formal black and white attire). It has all the makings of a perfect photo op.

As for the fashion, well let’s just say that if you are going to have as a backdrop for a fashion show some of the world’s rarest, most incredible cars, you had better have your  “A” Game going and no doubt, Ralph will. While I don’t know exactly what the clothes will look like, I think I can safely say he will not be doing a western prairie theme this time around and you probably won’t be seeing faded denim. In keeping with the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, two Ferrari Tastarossas, three 1996 McLaren F1’s (one of them an ultra-rare McLaren F1LM), a Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing, a 1929 Bentley 41/2 Litre (Blower Bentley), a Bugatti Veyron, a 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK “Count Trossi”, a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia, a rare Lamborghini Reventon Roadster, a 1938 Bugatti Atlantic, a 1929 Bentley Blower, an orange 1966 McLaren F1LM, and a number of red Ferraris from the 60’s, 70’s, and 90’s, the clothes will assuredly be similarly sleek, polished, modern, urbane and impeccably tailored — with an emphasis on black, with touches of red, white, yellow, orange, and accentuated with silver to mimic the gleaming chrome of his prized possessions.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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