This is it. The last day, the last walk up the steps of Bryant Park to that giant white tent that’s been the home of American fashion for the past 18 years.
My day began at the holy grail of American fashion, though nowhere near midtown. Ralph Lauren presented his Fall 2010 women’s collection at Skylight Studios in Tribeca to an intimate gathering of press. No celebrities, no overzealous paparazzi, no drama.
It’s often said that fashion is a barometer for what’s happening in culture and society. If you believe that, then there’s definitely meaning in the fact that this season, Ralph Lauren presented a collection that represented a return to luxury after showing proletarian, workwear-inspired, denim-heavy looks just six months ago.
In fact, there was not a single piece of denim in the entire collection—this was classic Ralph Lauren on classic style. The feeling was one of country elegance, women dressing for their homes to go out hunting and then return for cocktails in some warm library sitting room. The collection was strongest in separates: wool pants matched with regal velour jackets or a luxurious fur paired with tweed jodhpurs for a feminized Henry VIII riding look.
These were clothes that conveyed a sense of masculine power, especially visible in a power-woman pinstripe pant suit, but still maintained a feminine grace with feather-light floral print silk dresses.
Another great of American design was showing just a few hours later in the large tent at Bryant Park: Isaac Mizrahi. The collection was a hybrid of sparkly glamour and casual wearability: a parka was thrown over an embellished cocktail dress, a simple orange blazer hung over the shoulders of a model in a glistening mini. The effect was a joyously eclectic collection without pretention, much like the man himself.
The last show of the day—and of Bryant Park—was Tommy Hilfiger. The sentimentalism of it was palpable as crowds packed into the tent to the tune of “Sweet Caroline.” Lining the front row to a blinding flash of paparazzi lights was everyone from Rosario Dawson to Ashley Olsen and a few Gossip Girl characters thrown in—though this wasn’t about them, it was about Bryant Park.
The collection was named “Preppy With A Pop” and continued Tommy Hilfiger’s upward trajectory of sophistication. The women’s clothes offered chic layered separates, paired with heeled and sometimes over-the-knee water-proof-looking boots. The men’s collection was classic Hilfiger: with stylish tailored pieces, both ageless and timeless.
At the end of it all, Tommy came out and thanked Bryant Park and Fern Mallis. The show was over and “Empire State of Mind” came booming through the tent. This was the finale, the goodbye to the place where dreams were made. So long Bryant Park.