Rag & Bone, one retailer confided, is impossible to keep on the racks. The stuff flies out the door. The company's exponentially expanding empire of own-brand stores would seem to confirm that. New York, Boston, Washington, L.A., Dallas, Seoul, London… The dollar signs add up. For further evidence of growth, look no further than tonight's show. It came a full week in advance of the official start of New York fashion week, and it was, said co-designer David Neville, their first real men's show, fully separate from their womenswear outing. "In the past, we couldn't really afford to have the shows not on the same day—men's in the morning and women's in the afternoon," he added. "Now we can build it up."
For all its commercial success, Rag & Bone's menswear hasn't always soared on the runway. The company has experimented with moving it on and off the official catwalk circuit—it hasn't shown its Spring collections in runway format for years—which has actually been to its credit. Despite the involvement of a variety of talented stylists, the very act of styling things up for a show tends to undercut the thrust of the line itself. It's a stumbling block the designers themselves admit. "Sometimes for us, if we go too fashion, it doesn't necessarily connect to people," Marcus Wainwright said. "[Tonight] was much calmer, it was much more pared down. I think it needed that."
Fall's collection wasn't by any means unstyled—on the contrary, it was ably kicked into gear by Tony Irvine, another talented Brit expat—but it hit a subtler, less affected note than it sometimes has in the past. Neville calls the quintessential Rag & Bone idea "the mash-up of British tailoring and New York street," but here street predominated, with a slight air-force inflection. The irony was that the stripped-down approach actually made a stronger statement. The flight jackets were in some cases replicated exactly from vintage versions in Japanese fabrics ("The Japanese are so good at copying old fabrics," Wainwright marveled, "everything's identical"), but the nip-waisted bombers came in pebbled leathers in chilly new colors like mineral green. The silhouette was higher-waisted, with work pants modeled on Dickies and shorter jackets, and while there were plenty of suiting pieces, nary a tie. Instead, the accessory of note was a beanie. Tailor that.
Neville and Wainwright even hit on a pretty neat staging trick. The multimedia runway included giant projections showing slo-mo versions of the models as they passed. Rubberized yarns and coated fabrics played into that shock of the new theme. "It felt like a lot of yesterday, but a lot of tomorrow at the same time" was Neville's summing-up. Put more simply: It felt like a runway Rag & Bone that even a retailer could recognize. And recognize, you hardly need to add, with a smile.