Ralph Lauren’s dream of New York

High above Fifth Avenue hovers a dream of New York rendered in black, white and chrome otherwise known as Ralph Lauren’s living room. It is a setting of Gatsby aspiration and history book achievement, under which Central Park and the city spread, all flashing lights and Frank Sinatra promises.

It is a prism of the metropolis, liberated by irony and romantic, almost deliberately naive, that may seem straight from another time: one rooted in a slippery era before the challenges of the last two years emptied streets and shops, before protests and long-awaited social inventories. Yet it still has some power that is hard to resist. As Mr. Lauren proved Tuesday night when he in his first live show in town since 2019 opened the doors to his apartment and invited everyone in.

That’s actually not quite right.

He wanted to open the doors to his apartment and invite everyone in, but, said his son David, who is also his chief branding and innovation officer, it was suggested that this might not be the best idea. The apartment is large, but it is not to big.

So instead, he recreated his apartment (at least the living room in his apartment) in the Museum of Modern Art, from the long, low white sofas to the huge black leather chairs with curved steel arms, the large bowls of multicolored M & Ms (Mr. Lauren likes bowls with M & Ms everywhere he goes), larger bowls with perfect crimson roses and piles of coffee table books: on superyachts, Bentleys, Ralph’s world.

Mayor Eric Adams was there, hobbing with Anna Wintour on the set of sofas reserved for the family. Just past them was Jeremy Strong deep in conversation with Jessica Chastain; Lily Collins and Janelle Monáe with Henry Golding. There were political royalties (Maisy and Finnegan Biden) and TikTok royalties (Wisdom Kaye, Noah Beck).

And on the runway, modeling royalty of today (Hadids, James Turlington) and yesterday (Shalom Harlow, Tyson Beckford, Laetitia Casta). All wearing black and white with red shots that match the room.

Next week, Mr. Lauren unveils a collection titled Polo Ralph Lauren Exclusively for Morehouse and Spelman Colleges that expands the boundaries of his design tales, but the MoMA collection (officially Fall 2022) was a doubling of his traditional dream landscapes. The kind of styles that have Champagne in their DNA and suggest overnight stays on Carlyle flying to Aspen and the convertible in the Hamptons. It serves as a wormhole to a Manhattan story that mostly exists in myths, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books, and Ralph’s mind and life.

Which is to say, men and women in houndstooth and tweed; pleated white pants and deep fluffy velvet and occasional tie (tie! Do you remember them?). One crisp white shirt was worn unbuttoned to reveal a black collar, and then tucked into fine needle-striped pants with a black-and-white-striped silk bathrobe tied on top of it all, a pair of matching dots at the bottom. A high-necked long-sleeved Fair Isle sweater dress was cut in sequins. Cowboy hats were sprinkled in with LBDs and bright red cutaways. A long black dress was etched with the city skyline in crystals below.

In his exhibition notes, Mr. Lauren acknowledged that when he designed the collection, the war in Ukraine had not begun, and he was thinking primarily of the possibilities of resurrection. He wanted to share, he wrote, “an optimism for living that respects everyone’s dignity.”

Eventually, a woman in a tuxedo appeared with a New York Yankees cap on her head and a baseball jacket slung over her shoulders. If you dress for it, will it come?

It remains to be seen (though Mr Adams is clearly a believer). But this is a way of looking awfully good while you wait.

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