Ralph Lauren's own preoccupations are the thread that knits a dozen disparate elements together with his various menswear ranges. That's how the top-of-the-line Black Label, with its single, hypertailored silhouette, can share space with the black GT group of driving-inspired utilitywear. (Ralph is a dandy and a car collector.) This season, Ralph the horseman was another running theme, from Black Label's chic horsey subtext to the more rough-and-ready Double RL range. Streamlining was the news at Purple Label, with a slimmer silhouette and narrower lapels on the jackets. A double-breasted style had four buttons instead of six, the lower closing elongating the torso.
Black and Purple are classic in that their evolution can be measured in millimeters, but Lauren unleashes his inner cineast when he comes to Polo. For example, Fall saw him referencing The Shooting Party, James Mason's last film, about life pre-WWI on a grand English estate. A tweed jacket with poacher's pockets could have been a period piece, but the fabric treatments (washing, distressing, patching) injected some 21st-century panache into items an Edwardian shooting party might actually have worn. In fact, fabrics throughout the various ranges had been subjected to all sorts of creative abuse. A pair of jeans seemingly crusted with dirt was a particularly novel extension of country life. Polo also offered a "town and country" group that intertwined Manhattan and Greenwich (a three-piece herringbone suit, say, that could do double duty in both locationsespecially if you were the artistically inclined scion of a fine old family). An equally patrician theme was evident in a group inspired by the casual luxe of the Santa Barbara lifestyle, with a side trip on horseback to San Ysidro, the ranch where the Kennedys honeymooned.