When it was announced that Ralph Lauren would be showing his spring/summer 2023 collection, perfectly titled California Dreaming, it just made sense.
It seemed so natural that a designer who has long taken inspiration not just from the glamour of Hollywood, but from the dusty dreams of Depression-era gold seekers in their faded denim workwear, would set up camp on the “Left Coast.” What was hard to believe was this would be the first time in his storied career showing outside of New York. And there we were, situated in the stunning Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, timed perfectly with a California sunset that seemed to come out on cue after a bit of a dreary, gray day in Los Angeles.
Full-circle moments were in abundance, including the presence of Diane Keaton, whom Ralph Lauren famously outfitted for her iconic turn in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall—a look so formidable it’s hard to separate the actress from the role. I marveled at her perfectly tailored black and white ensemble with a wide-leg trouser that seemed to kiss the floor, but not drag. While that relationship was formed in 1977, in walked a resplendent Jennifer Lopez with husband Ben Affleck. One couldn’t help but replay her stunning wedding dress that Lauren had made for her just some months ago. It was overwhelming to think that one designer could have such a cultural impact for so many decades and still be at the top of his game. The mix of actors—from Sylvester Stallone, Jessica Chastain, Lily Collins and Mindy Kaling to Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Dern and John Legend—and TikTok stars like Noah Beck and Wisdom Kaye, proved once again the finger is still on the pulse. All of this was before the show even started.
When it was time to take our seats (cushioned and branded lounges), the celebrities in attendance took a supporting role to a several-act show filled with the hits that have made Ralph Lauren a superstar American designer like no other. A remade rendition of The Mamas & the Papas’ classic “California Dreamin’” started with the aforementioned denim and workwear from his successful Double RL line. The models embodied a vintage attitude, with worn boots and cowboy hats to match. Nods to the great West were everywhere, from conch belts and oversize belt buckles to blanket wrap skirts and layers of jewelry. Let’s call that Act 1, Scene 1. We continued to a certain 1930s sophistication that Lauren knows so well. Double-breasted jackets with turtlenecks, striped knitwear, berets, pleated trousers and formfitting column dresses, both beaded and in matte jersey, were sophisticated and sexy.
If every film needs a “make you smile and tear up a little” moment, that came with the children who accompanied models in the next “scene.” Some with their own mothers and fathers, the kids were a delight as they smiled and waved and looked as if they were having the time of their lives. When I caught up with David Lauren after the show, he told me that the two adorable redheaded twin girls were cast two nights before the show as Ralph spotted them at dinner with their parents. A true “star is born” moment cementing the cinematic appeal of the evening.
Diane Keaton, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck and Jessica Chastain
The collection continued with a finale of knockout nylon skirts and matching maillots in various primary colors, proving that Mr. Lauren knows how to create showstopping moments.
After the show, we were treated to an equally lavish dinner from Lauren’s famous Polo Bar in New York. I still had the soundtrack in my head and Neil Diamond’s “I Am... I Said” lyrics: “Well I’m New York City born and raised, but nowadays I’m lost between two shores. L.A.’s fine but it ain’t home; New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more.” Quite the opposite could be said for Ralph Lauren; perhaps he has found the wanderlust to take his vision to many more American cities that have proved the inspiration for his career that is deserving of its own Hollywood treatment. Let the casting begin.
Photography by: AGUIAR PHOTO BY DILLON DRISCOLL; OTHER PHOTO COURTESY OF RALPH LAUREN