The Next Generation of Ralph Lauren
by Jessica DeFino
Teddy bears, stuffed dogs, models barely breaking 3-feet-tall...this wasn’t your typical runway show.
When Ralph Lauren staged his Fall 2014 Children’s Fashion Show in New York City earlier this year, it was a new experience for both the brand and attendees. For the first time, Ralph Lauren showcased little girls and boys walking the runway together, side-by-side in the most adorable coordinating outfits. For the guests, it was a refreshing opportunity to have fun with fashion in a way that’s all but obsolete at today’s high-end runway shows.
Walking up to the venue- the famed New York Public Library, an historic structure that perfectly matched the Ralph Lauren vibe- the air was thick with anticipation as smartly dressed kids (and their impeccably dressed parents) littered the iconic steps, bouncing with excitement as they waited for the tall wooden doors to swing open. Outfits ranged from a handful of Ralph’s classic princess dresses, to boys in crisp mini-tuxedos, to one chic 5-year-old girl decked out in cutoff denim shorts with a white RL band jacket and rock-inspired ankle booties- an outfit I’m not ashamed to say I, at the age of twenty-something, recreated for myself later on that week.
The scene inside was just as bustling and bubbly. Handsome waiters passed by carrying trays of mini grilled cheese sandwiches, slider-sized burgers, bites of boysenberry pie, and glasses of sweet lemonade- complete with colorful swizzle straws, no less. And even though there was white wine on hand for the adults, most couldn’t help but indulge in the nostalgia-inducing treats instead.
The crowd was a star-studded one: Edie Falco and her daughter, Macy, were in attendance; Alicia Keys sat in the audience- in a decidedly grown-up and sexy Ralph Lauren red leather jacket- waiting for her son, Egypt, to make his runway debut; and the host of the night was none other than actress Uma Thurman.
Also on hand was Madison Beer, the 15-year-old Ralph-Lauren-model-turned-singer, just signed by Justin Bieber, acting as an “#RLKids” ambassador. She talked to the crowd about the importance of reading, reinforcing the theme of the night: children’s literacy. The Ralph Lauren brand has always mixed philanthropy with fashion, and of course the Fall 2014 Children’s Fashion Show was no exception. Proceeds from the show and the whole Ralph Lauren Kids collection will go to Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s literacy through making sure that all children have the tools necessary to start- and enjoy- reading at an early age.
The night even featured an exclusive tee shirt emblazoned with the classic Lauren Polo Pony as part of a limited edition capsule collection, designed to promote children’s literacy and benefit children’s charities around the world. The cute tee was mixed into looks both on the runway and in the audience; Ralph Lauren ambassadors and models Ireland Baldwin (gorgeous daughter of Alec), Tyson Beckford, and Bruna Tenorio rocked the tee with jeans, proving just how fashionable philanthropy can be.
Driving that point home beyond a shadow of a doubt, all eyes were on Uma Thurman as she started down the wraparound staircase of the New York Public Library, stunning in an emerald green gown and tan leather jacket from Lauren’s Black Label line. She was accompanied by Ralph Lauren’s son (and executive vice president of the company) David Lauren, and the two started off the show by stressing the importance of children’s literacy and the power of encouraging our children to chase their dreams.
“It’s a very long walkway, especially when you’re 2 feet tall!” Lauren said, applauding the mini-models starring in the show. “It’s almost a city block.”
Thurman loved taking a break from the “adult” fashion scene and encouraged the audience to have fun with fashion for the night, leaving real-world stress behind for a bit. “I find it all very relaxing,” she said.
And, incredibly, it was a relaxing atmosphere. I half-expected a roomful of cranky kids- it was 8pm on a Monday night, after all- having temper tantrums, running around, generally misbehaving; but it wasn’t so. All the children present, models and audience members alike, were shockingly well-behaved, polite, and attentive. Edie Falco offered up an explanation: “She’s excited about staying up late more than anything else,” she said of her daughter Macy. Clever kid- she knows that proving she can handle a late night out on the town can only lead to more bedtime-bending opportunities!
Although Macy wasn’t walking in the show, a few celebrity children were waiting in the wings. Among them was Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz’s son, Egypt. “He has a great personality,” Alicia said of the 3-year-old aspiring model. “I’m very excited for him. This came together just because I’m a great fan of Ralph Lauren.”
Also walking the runway was Angela Wang, daughter of Chinese reality TV stars Wang Yuelun and Li Xiang. She and Egypt had the honor of closing out the show, walking hand-in-hand with Mr. Lauren himself to take the final bow of the night. Angela is clearly poised for super-stardom: as she clutched her teddy bear and struck a pose at the runway’s end, the crowd went crazy from the cuteness overload.
It’s not an unusual feeling for the brand. “One of the first people to be in our show was Jennifer Connelly,” David Lauren offered as explanation for the child models chosen to walk. “You never know what career might be launched here. We’re grooming some talent.”
“Grooming that talent,” to David Lauren, meant applauding and encouraging each and every model that took a turn on the runway. A far cry from the cold, behind-dark-sunglasses looks of judgement that “grown up” fashion shows are known for, the Ralph Lauren 2014 Fall Children’s Fashion Show was loud and proud, thanks to an audience that cheered and clapped wildly from start to finish.
It was hard to tell who was having more fun- the adults or the kids- begging the question, who is this fashion show really for? One audience-goer there with her 11- and 8-year-old daughters said, “They love a Ralph Lauren fashion show! They check things off.” But there was boundless inspiration for adults, too, as evidenced by the clear vision of Ralph Lauren across every sub-brand.
The Fall 2014 Childrenswear Fashion Show echoed themes and color schemes from the Fall 2014 Polo Ralph Lauren collection, and was an obvious continuation of the styles seen on the Spring 2014 Ralph Lauren runway- wherein lies the magic of the lifestyle megabrand that Lauren has created. His classic, all-American-with-a-twist creations defy age, gender, and even personal style; there really is something for everyone here.
The show opened with a sweet plaid dress, stylized with little extras like a peter pan collar, sheer paneling, and a slightly off-center beret, that was nearly identical to the adult version that walked down the Polo Ralph Lauren runway just weeks earlier, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
The looks weren’t all so classic, though. Lauren’s goal for the season was to update “tried-and-true favorites,” which he did by mixing unexpected materials, creating clashing color patterns, and infusing every look with a quirky touch. Crowd-pleasers included Look 4, a daring mix of neon knits and leather skirts complete with bright beanies (and matching skateboards!); Look 7, a super-chic moto jacket, screened tee, and skinny jeans combo that had the women in the room taking notes; and Look 30, which showcased a young male model in tan leather fringe jacket that every boy, girl, man, and woman in attendance wanted for themselves.
Throughout the show, it was clear that Ralph Lauren had a handle on womenswear and menswear trends; with just a few tweaks, he tailored trends just-so to transition the hottest looks of the season into age-appropriate back-to-school outfits.
A huge trend in womenswear- mixing cocktail attire with casual pieces- was repurposed for kids with Angela Wang’s first look: a couture-worthy ballgown skirt topped off with a doggie-printed sweater. Pattern mixing has been a favorite trend of the fashion set for some time now, and Lauren embraced the style by mixing plaid with camouflage, tribal patterns with bateau stripes, and intarsia knits with patched-up denim. He even nodded to the recent skirt-over-pants phenomenon in womenswear by layering leggings under mini-skirts, creating looks for young girls that were both fashion-forward and fun.
If Ralph Lauren’s design goal for the children’s collection was to offer “new seasonal palettes [in a] wide-reaching collection of fashionable looks,” then he hit the nail on the head. With mesh polos and rugbys, signature button downs and sweaters, updated graphics and logos, and “style references ranging from collegiate prep to outdoor explorer,” Mr. Lauren offered kids a collection that gives them exactly what they all want: clothes that make them feel like a grown-up but let them play like a kid.
To keep your children on-trend this season, take a few tips from Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2014 Children’s collection:
1. A fun hat is the perfect accent to any look
2. Layer, layer, layer
3. Mix prints and materials for eclectic fall outfits
4. A little dash of neon goes a long way
All in all, the difference between what the Ralph Lauren company offers children and what it offers adults is minimal. Lauren stays true to his brand and his vision no matter who he designs for, which made this runway show a blast to attend. By replacing the sophisticated edge of his womenswear collections with a dash of playfulness, Lauren created a collection that was universally inspiring.
After the show’s finale, models mingled with attendees and celebrated their runway debuts. An impressive performance by the cast of Broadway’s Tony Award winning play, “Matilda”, was followed by a giant all-you-can-eat candy station courtesy of Dylan’s Candy Bar- talk about a grande finale! As the kids (and let’s be honest, parents) filled their bags up to the top with sweets, the New York Public library was abuzz with the sense that this night was about so much more than fashion.
Through staging this runway show, encouraging aspiring models, and introducing the importance of children’s literacy and philanthropy to the young crowd, Ralph Lauren just may have kickstarted a generation of powerful little kids. Watching them filter out of the venue, armed with a burgeoning passion for fashion, confidence in a job well done, and yes, candy, it was clear that the next wave of the Ralph Lauren brand is just getting started.