Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren Serve Comfort Food, of a Sort

Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren Serve Comfort Food, of a Sort

New York Fashion Week begins with throwback dressing and breakfast at Ralph’s.

Backstage at the Tom Ford fall 2019 fashion show at the Park Avenue Armory.CreditCreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

You’ve got to hand it to Tom Ford: He knows how to spin familiarity.

That sharp ruby velvet jacket on his fall 2019 runway — the one that, for those who remembered, acted like a rip in the space-time continuum, sending them right back to the ruby velvet Gucci suit Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards? Those unbuttoned silk shirts in Charles James tones that were like (Hello!) Madonna in a blue satin Gucci shirt at the 1995 VMAs? Those slinky jersey gowns with asymmetric necklines and peekaboo backs, the sides held together by draped chains, that seemed so much like the white jersey gown with gold hardware that Georgina Grenville made famous in a 1996 Gucci ad?

“Of course I am referencing a lot of my own collections,” Mr. Ford said backstage after the show, perched on a black velvet couch in front of a table sprouting a vase of white orchids in a spare room of the Park Avenue Armory dominated by a giant portrait of George Washington. “But that’s who I am. You get to a certain age and you say: ‘This is just my style. This is what I do.’”

Looks from Tom Ford’s fall 2019 collection.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

Besides, he said, “I’ve been feeling really agitated because of what’s going on in the world so I think clothing now should just be nonaggressive and beautiful.” It’s one way to duck the pressure of the shock of the new.

So much of the talk these days is of millennials and Gen Z and how much everyone is trying to appeal to their evolving tastes and how they have changed the face of retail and restaurants and human interaction (and killed napkins and fabric softener and so forth and so on).

But there has been a corresponding trend toward embracing those with experience — nice euphemism if I’ve ever heard one — whether it’s the cohort of over-70s who may run for president or Glenn Close sweeping up best actress awards.

There’s no reason fashion, an industry predicated on sensing and embracing trends, should be any different.

So as the New York shows began the monthlong run through ready-to-wear collections that will terminate in Paris in March, it was Mr. Ford and Ralph Lauren, who have approximately 80 years of combined experience in the industry, who set the tone. Which was, effectively, sartorial comfort food for clients d’un certain âge. Or at least a certain nostalgia.

There’s a reason Mr. Ford’s soundtrack featured the song “Stayin’ Alive.”

Against that backdrop came largely an ode to trousers — pleated, jewel toned, with room at the thigh and a cuff at the ankle — and big teddy bear furs (some fake, some not) with equally squishy tilted fur fedoras (all fake) tossed on top, like a chic stuffed toy for the head. In between were layers of slinky shirts or hoodies and jackets.

There was a pencil skirt or two, in jersey, with a zipper up one leg that could be undone to show an insert of silk, mixed in with Mr. Ford’s usual men’s wear silhouettes emphasizing the shoulder and waist, but they were almost an afterthought. At night, those slinky jersey dresses were all shown with cardigans.

Cardigans? As in grampa?

Not exactly. These versions were also jersey and often left hanging off the elbows and trailing on the ground, so they seemed more like royal robes than Mr. Rogers. But still. Cardigans. This may be where we are now.


Ralph Lauren’s fall 2019 fashion show.CreditLandon Nordeman for The New York Times

It was certainly where Mr. Lauren was. After his blowout 50-years-in-business-extravaganza in Central Park last season, he scaled things back and invited everyone in for coffee and mini-croissants at Ralph’s, the new cafe in his Madison Avenue store, with a side of black, white and gold dressing. (Mr. Lauren, one of the few designers who still adheres to a see now/buy now schedule, was showing his spring collection.)


Left to right: Kathryn Newton, Annabelle Wallis, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Karlie Kloss, Leandra Medine and Derek Blasberg at the Ralph Lauren show.CreditLandon Nordeman for The New York Times

As the guests sat at marble-topped bistro tables, models old and new swanned down the wrought iron stairs and swished between the chairs, doing little twirls every once in a while in the mode of a midcentury department store show. That was also kind of the mode of the clothes: a black sequined polo shirt evening gown; white palazzo pants with a white naval blazer; sparkling striped knits and a lot of gold Oscars gowns, including a Ginger Rogers dance dress entirely in the old Ralph groove.

And it’s where Rachel Comey, returning to New York after some dallying in California, was — although she’s more Gen X than boomer, and her particular brand of swaddling clothes have less to do with throwback Thursdays than a kind of thrown-together cool; a non-neurotic wardrobe for a neurotic person.

She called her show a “casual Rachel Comey runway,” and it was, with an orange pilled T-shirt sweater tucked into a thick hot pink skirt with a paper-bag waist, and a paillette-strewn top falling off one shoulder paired with quilted baby blue duvet pants. It’s the next best thing to pulling the blanket over your head.

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman


Published at Thu, 07 Feb 2019 20:45:07 +0000