by Mark Holgate

Perhaps, in between designing collections for women and men, kick-starting an ever-growing accessories division, and pursuing a global expansion that’s going at a rapid clip, Rag & Bone’s David Neville and Marcus Wainwright could write a quick how-to guide on successful brand building. But since they probably don’t have the time for that, let me do it for them here instead. Their message would likely boil down to this: Know Who You Are, Know What You Can Do, Then Just Do It. Neville and Wainwright clearly already know all of this, because they did just do it, if their incredibly strong, persuasively focused, and brilliantly direct-in-its-appeal fall collection is anything to go by. It was dressed up but also casually downbeat. It had newness but also familiarity. It borrowed from the boys, but also sent it all back to them, because Neville and Wainwright realized they could come up with something better for the girls.

The “girl,” their “girl,” is, of course, important to them. It’s who they talk about, who they design for, who they want to bring into sharper focus from the corner of their eyes. Oftentimes, designers will talk about their “girl,” and you don’t think she ever existed beyond the fancy of a design studio. But the Rag & Bone girl is everywhere you look, living downtown (even if in reality that’s more of a state of mind for her than a reality), standing beside you on the subway, going on a juice detox, watching Girls, getting drunk after said cleanse. In short, a living, breathing, fun creature that they have learned to dress instinctively, and rightly.Backstage, Wainwright and Neville talked about what had inspired fall. The notions of sixties minimal-chic air travel that then morphed into fighter planes, hence the mix of a short, graphic, texture-rich (quilt-effect stitching abounded) look fused with utilitarian detailing (drawstrings, leather ribbed banding). Skirts were super-abbreviated, collars on sweaters stood away from the neck or rolled over, an homage to Camelot-era Jackie, while the coats were superbly worked—in particular, a green trench whose sleeves were articulated the same way as an airforce jacket back in the forties, and which took ten go-rounds to get right. The color palette was lifted from the airplane world, too, fusing darkly somber, military service shades of black, gray, and olive, contrasted with a judicious use of deep purple, seafoam green, and a flash of an orange that originated from the lining of a MA1 flight jacket. And, because they’re both English, their nationality came into play, too, with a disrupted Prince of Wales check that close-up looked like it had been rethought by Bridget Riley. With all this, they wisely kept the styling to a minimum—a slash of black at the eyes, dark thigh-highs, and one of their pilot bags, patched in leather and synthetics, firmly grasped in hand, and looking as coolly compelling as most everything else here.