David Neville and Marcus Wainwright sent the ur-Rag & Bone collection down the runway last season. Surely there could be nothing Rag & Bonier than that aggregation of military workwear references, classic English tailoring, and experimentation with technical materials. And so, as Wainwright acknowledged today, the only thing to do this time out was to evolve the brand into a new set of references. Make no mistake: Rag & Bone's trademark tomboyish urbanity was on display here. And some of the looks, like the magnified varsity-style sweaters and slouched leather pants, came off as continuations of ideas explored in seasons past, rather than a wholesale departure. But Neville and Wainwright did seem to be aiming for something much crisper than we've seen before from them and, with their array of slipdresses, something much more diaphanously feminine.
A soft and simple turquoise silk dress with a fluttery under layer of white expressed both the crispness and the femininity very nicely.
But the missing element here was specificity: The best Rag & Bone looks derive their force from Neville and Wainwright's fetish for their references; last season's play with check, for instance, worked because these designers are so extremely fluent in hoary menswear suiting fabrics. They know what buttons to push. Here, though, with a starting point of Little House on the Prairie and women's pioneer-days workwear, Neville and Wainwright were on less solid ground. They did knock one look out of the park—a fitted overall shown in black and in white. But it's no accident that the aspect of this collection that communicated most powerfully was its overarching nineties-ness: Those string-strapped crop tops and iridescent bias-cut dresses were kissing cousins of the clothes that girls used to rock in London back then, and the look has a fresh relevance now. Neville and Wainwright know a little something or other about that milieu, and in this instance, familiarity bred success.