Preview: Ralph Lauren Fall 2024 Is a Return to the Office and a Subtle Evolution

Fashion’s most gifted storyteller, Ralph Lauren, has staged his share of runway spectaculars, including at his private garage in Bedford, N.Y., and his Fifth Avenue apartment, or a replica of it anyway, at the Museum of Modern Art.

He’s shown in grand settings, including Central Park for his 50th anniversary, the Huntington Library in Pasadena, Calif., and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, recreating parts of his world at each location, down to the chandeliers and Double RL steaks.

But for fall 2024, sensing perhaps a certain fatigue has set in around experiential runway shows and the fashion circus surrounding them (not to mention the carbon footprint), he brought things down to size, showing his latest collection the way he did in the beginning — at his offices.

“I wanted to do something very simple and easy, and the world is very small nowadays so you can reach a lot of people in a different way,” he said during a preview of the collection, due to be presented Monday night to 100 guests at 650 Madison, including Jessica Chastain, Kerry Washington, Hannah Einbinder and Glenn Close. “It’s important for me to have the mix, because the details of the clothes are what make it, and the diverse sensibility.”

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren in his office.

Carter Berg/WWD

Lauren has also had his share of themed collections from the beginning, so many of them iconic — the 1978 western collection, the 1981 Santa Fe collection, the 1984 safari collection and on and on. At times, it seemed to constrain him, sending him down the path of the costume show.

Lately, however, like many designers, he’s been more interested in giving women the tools to create their own personal style — with beautiful clothes that are unmistakably Ralph Lauren. And after 57 years of designing American sportswear, he’s got a lot of tools in his toolbox.

“It’s not one story, not one statement,” he said. “I don’t think young women dress that way today, or anybody. They mix it up, they want to be casual and eclectic and have a voice.”

As a suggestion — menswear and the neckties Lauren started his business with all those years ago, which have been bubbling up again as of late, conveying a sense of power even as women in the U.S. seem to be rapidly losing it. Neckties were all over the Paris runways (including the hair braid version at Schiaparelli), and are being embraced by next-gen stars like Ayo Edebiri and Billie Eilish.

Lauren has been doing the look all along, of course, from supplying Diane Keaton’s slouchy khakis, vests and ties in the 1977 film “Annie Hall” to dressing Madonna and Janelle Monáe and just earlier this month, Zendaya in an archival 1992 necktie and blazer worn as a minidress for an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

For fall 2024, he took ownership of the contribution, serving up several gorgeous takes with a relatable charm, including a soft and sumptuous double-breasted glen plaid suit with a teddy bear of a coat on top, a gray pin-stripe suit with a shearling bomber and a taupe tonal satin shirt and tie with a liquid-y maxiskirt.

“There is nothing here that couldn’t have been worn before; in fact, I raided my closet and did the same clothes again,” Lauren laughed.

He could….

But he also served up reminders of his history long before Beyoncé’s haute “Cowboy Carter” wardrobe, of putting Western wear in the context of high fashion, with rancher jackets, silver belt buckles and cowboy hats that added to the looks, without defining them.

“I don’t have trendy statements….We’ve always been quiet and luxury. And we’ve always done menswear, menswear is big or cowboy hats, Western, all of those are part of us,” he said.

The subdued palette, including a dozen shades of taupe, forced the eye to appreciate the details. That could be the high-low juxtaposition of sleek tailoring with soft and cozy outerwear, and romantic tulle with casual cable knits, which is everywhere now but so Ralph and so American classic. Or the luxurious handcraft of a suede and shearling crochet vest, and a jacket made from 12 fabrics sewn like intarsia, reinforcing the brand elevation strategy that has helped the company beat earnings forecasts.

Consistency with quiet evolution is at the heart of Lauren’s continued success and also smart business in a time of volatility. (Speaking of which, chief executive officer Patrice Louvet, who was at the office for fittings ahead of the show, would not comment on a WWD report that Michael Rider, creative director of the popular and young-leaning Polo Ralph Lauren collection, is departing the company to return to Celine, where he logged a decade as design director of ready-to-wear from 2008 to 2018. Louvet called it “a rumor.”)

Reading the tea leaves, the return-to-office show certainly seems like a full-circle moment for Lauren, who brought elements of his personal space into one of the company showrooms to stage it to look like his office, including black-and-white photography, knickknacks and Italian-made leather armchairs that are part of his expanding home category.

“The first show I ever did, I had my arm on the mantle in my office, I had all the editors come up, it was a very different world, and I described the clothes….I felt like Mr. Couture,” he remembered. “I didn’t know what to be nervous about, but it was interesting. I tell everybody that’s how I started, and that’s how I ended.”

Ended? With succession planning in the air at Dries Van Noten, Valentino, Giorgio Armani and more, is Lauren planning his?

“I always think about that, and I’m very happy where I am,” he said. “As long as I’m strong and handsome.”

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