Rag & Bone
February 08, 2013 New York
The starting point was aviation, as Wainwright and Neville explained after the show. Vintage flight suits have been a longtime obsession of Wainwright's, so the reference was a comfortable one, but the designers angled it in a few interesting directions, taking in the Pan Am flight attendant uniforms of yore, the dressy clothes people used to wear on planes back when flying was a chic experience, and the bold colors sported by the folks who work various jobs on aircraft carriers. Those influences offered the designers a lot of breadth, which they exploited; they also managed to focus those far-flung ideas into a coherent narrative, bound together by texture, pattern, and silhouette.
The textural emphasis was announced in the very first look, which matched a "bon chic, bon genre" jacket of rubberized tweed with a pair of quilted leather pants. The Chanel reference was impossible to miss, but Wainwright and Neville made it their own by oversizing both pieces and giving them the lived-in slouch of workwear. The super-short sweater dress that followed expanded on the textural story, via its bonded knit trim, and established the collection's pattern play, which entailed reinterpreting classic menswear checks in a variety of trippy ways. In this case, the check was a houndstooth blown up to grandiose proportions; standout looks later in the show featured tailored pieces in a digitized Prince of Wales wool. The sweater dress also introduced this season's key Rag & Bone silhouette—a very abbreviated hemline, elaborated throughout the show by fitted and flared miniskirts and graphic A-line dresses.
Two looks in, Wainwright and Neville had their premises laid down; the rest was just riffing. For those keeping score at home, the signature Rag & Bone themes checked off thus far included: workwear, traditional English tailoring, technical materials, must-have knits. Themes making an appearance later in the show included sports-inspired details (the racing stripes on trousers, the bolts of color collaring taut V-necks), rugged outerwear (oh, to have that glossy olive parka to wear out into the evening's snowstorm), and menswear staples, with a twist (to wit, the collection's excellent adapted trench). Check marks everywhere! Perhaps the best indication of the strength of this show was that the looks were all so clean. In contrast to some of their previous efforts, here the layering was minimal and non-distracting. Wainwright and Neville are going to have a hard time matching this outing's fluid synthesis of their fixations. Indeed, they may just have to find some new ones.