When it was announced that Ralph Lauren would show his Spring/Summer 2023 collection in Los Angeles, perfectly titled "California Dreaming," it just made sense.
It seemed so natural that a designer who has long taken inspiration not just from the glamor of Hollywood, but also the dusty dreams of Depression-era gold seekers in faded denim workwear, would set up camp on the "Left Coast.”
What was hard to believe was this would be his first time showing outside of New York in his storied and decade-spanning career.
The author, James Aguiar
Situated in the stunning Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, the showing timed perfectly with a California Sunset that seemed to come out on cue after a bit of a dreary, gray L.A. day.
Full circle moments were in abundance, including the presence of Diane Keaton, whom Ralph Lauren famously outfitted for her iconic turn in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall with a look so formidable it's hard to separate the actress from the role. I marveled at her perfectly tailored black and white ensemble with a wide leg trouser that just seemed to kiss the floor but not drag.
Diane Keaton, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Jessica Chastain
While I reflect on that relationship, formed in 1977, in walked a resplendent Jennifer Lopez with husband Ben Affleck. One couldn’t help but replay the stunning wedding dress Ralph made for the actress-singer just months ago.
It was overwhelming to think one designer could have such a cultural impact for so many decades and still be at the top of his game. The mix of actors including Sylvester Stallone, Jessica Chastain, Lily Collins, Mindy Kalling, Milan Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Dern and John Legend mixed with TikTok stars Noah Beck and Wisdom Kaye, proving once again the Lauren finger is still on the pulse.
When it was time to take our seats (cushioned and branded lounges), the celebrities in attendance took a supporting role to a several-act show filled with the hits that have made Ralph Lauren a superstar American designer.
A remade rendition of The Mamas & The Papas classic “California Dreaming” started, as the aforementioned denim and workwear from his successful Double RL line made its way down the runway. Models embodied a vintage attitude with worn boots and cowboy hats to match. Nods to the great West were everywhere, from conch belts and oversized belt buckles, to blanket wrap skirts and layers of jewelry.
Let’s call that Act 1, Scene 1.
We continued our journey through time with a certain 1930’s sophistication that Ralph knows so well; double breasted jackets with turtlenecks, striped knitwear, berets, pleated trousers. Form-fitting column dresses both beaded and in matte jersey were sophisticated and sexy. Red platform wedges were a surprise and welcome addition on a particular ‘40s-inspired silhouette. The navy blue, double-breasted suit nipped at the waist with a slight peplum and long-below-the-knee skirt.
Of course, every great film needs a ‘make you smile and tear up a little’ moment, and that came with the children that accompanied some models in the next “scene.” The kids, ranging in age from about 3 to 12, were a delight as they smiled and waved, looking as if they were having the time of their lives. Some walked with their own mothers and fathers.
When I caught up with David Lauren after the show, he told me the adorable redheaded twin girls were cast two nights before, as Ralph spotted them at dinner with their parents. It was a true “star is born” moment that cemented the cinematic appeal of the evening.
The collection continued with a finale of knock-out nylon skirts and matching maillots in various primary colors, proving that Mr. Lauren knows how to create show-stopping moments. A standing ovation greeted the legendary designer as he took his bow, surrounded by his models.
After the show, we were treated to an equally lavish dinner with food from Ralph’s famous Polo Bar in New York. I still had the soundtrack in my head as I dined on the iconic Polo Bar burger, singing Neil Diamond's lyrics “Well I'm New York City born and raised / but nowadays I’m lost between two shores / L.A.’s fine but it ain't home / New York’s home but it ain't mine no more.”
While nothing could be further from the truth—Ralph Lauren proved he’s anything but lost—perhaps he’s found the wanderlust to take his era-defining vision to more of the American cities that have inspired his career; a career which certainly deserves its own Hollywood film.
Let the casting begin.
Follow Modern Luxury's VP of Fashion and Creative Director James Aguiar on Instagram for more fashional reports.
Jessica Chastain, Gian Luca Passi