Just before the start of Ralph Lauren’s 40th anniversary show, as guests like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and the actors Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman took their seats, there was music from “My Fair Lady.” A tug of Broadway, and then the show began, the music shifting to a faster contemporary beat as the first model stepped out in a white silk gown with a frilly black-edged hem and a wide black straw hat. Masculine coats, satin jodhpurs, trim vests and long polka-dot skirts with romantic white blouses seemed to animate the racecourse painting in the background.
The show, on Saturday night in the Central Park Conservatory Garden, was a vigorous display of Mr. Lauren’s imagination and wit, from the veiled bowlers and snow-white riding boots tipped in black to the long ruffled dresses in pastel garden prints, and the only location that might have better served his purposes than the park would have been Fifth Avenue itself. The clothes, while far from being costumes, had the pomp of an aristocratic parade.
Mr. Lauren could have gone in any number of design directions to mark his 40th anniversary. To Newport, the American West, the Adirondacks. Instead he chose New York, reflecting its energy and sophistication with crisp tailoring, a black leather coat banded in taxi-bright yellow, and a silver chain-beaded gown as cosmopolitan as the Chrysler building.