In 1997 I purchased my very first Lauren Ralph Lauren sweater. It was a camel hair (literally camel hair, not the color) Navajo sweater coat that was so long it grazed my ankles when I walked. I was shopping with my mother, whose obsession for Ralph Lauren was far richer in history and much more intense than my own at this point, when we spotted the Navajo sweaters in our local department store section for Lauren Ralph Lauren. As my version of the story goes, this was a purchase that was pre-destined.
This was the summer of my growth spurt. My body had stretched so quickly I would wake up in the night in extreme pain wondering what I had done to deserve this sort of discomfort. By the end of the summer the discomfort would result in a height of 6’1. Incidentally, this would be the perfect height for the sweater I was about to try on for the first time from LaurenRalph Lauren. The shop attendant informed me that many had attempted to model the sweater but no one had purchased it as it was simply too long for most women.So, said sweater had been marked down dramatically. Keeping in mind that this was 1997 and I was 16, with no job and no understanding that women were paying thousands of pounds for dresses in bigger cities such as New York and London, the number on the price tag, which read $998, ran shivers down my spine. However, the seasonal markdowns saw the price dramatically reduced to $149. Coincidentally, I had $150 in my pocket, which I had saved over the past three months spending my Friday and Saturday nights babysitting for neighbours’ children.
On this particular day I had ventured out to go shopping with my mom, a special tradition I will always hold dear to my heart. With only that $150 to my name, I had reservations in seeing it spent all in one place. That being said, there was something so magical with this particular garment. The way in which it hung and hit at just the right place, just as the designer had intended as they fitted it with their in house model who I have no doubt was close to my height at that time, all led me to believe that this was a coat I was destined to own. I had seen my mother out and about in her Ralph Lauren Navajo sweater coats for so many years and even though I knew I would one day be raiding her closet to “borrow” these precious items, I felt purchasing a Lauren Ralph Lauren sweater with my own hard earned cash somehow felt like something that was right for that time and place.
I approached the cash register, handed over the money and left swinging my LaurenRalph Lauren bag proudly by my side. As I write this love letter to Lauren Ralph Lauren, I am sitting here wrapped in the very same Navajo sweater. Yes, after nearly twenty years I still have it and it’s in perfect condition. Last week I wore it out for a quick Whole Foods run and a woman chased me down the gluten-free aisle to ask if it was current Ralph Lauren. I watched a part of her die as I informed her it was of a “vintage” ilk. For true collectors, the worst words you can hear are, “oh this old thing, I bought it years ago.” This basically translates to, “you can love it all you want, but you’ll never find it again.”
So why share this story now, after writing daily on Fashion Foie Gras for nearly four years? Well, about a month ago I got a call from the beautiful girls over at the Ralph Lauren press office in London and they asked me if I’d be interested in flying to New York to cover the first ever Lauren Ralph Lauren runway show. Keeping in mind the story I’ve just shared, paired with the stories I have shared over and over again about my love for everything Ralph Lauren, you can only imagine my response. In fact, I’ll go ahead and quote word for word my email back to the office…. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Was that too many yeses? Yes, I would love to attend.” And the rest, as they say, is history now. I flew out to New York on Monday morning. We arrived in the late afternoon and I took some time to say hello to a few old friends, the city itself included.
The next day was Ralph Lauren-ed from start to finish. We began our morning with a tour of the mansion, aka the Ralph Lauren flagship store in Manhattan. The mansion, for me, is more magical than Disney World for a 10-year-old. Every corner turned there is a discovery of a new beautiful garment, accessory or piece of furniture that I can’t imagine life without. It’s basically my bank account’s worst nightmare. There is another story to tell here entirely so keep an eye out. However, we were quickly led onto the Lauren Ralph Lauren concession at Bloomingdale’s to check out the more affordable side of the Ralph Lauren empire. I breathed a sigh of relief as price tags revealed more wallet friendly options for filling my spring summer wardrobe.
I think before I go any further, this is a good opportunity for me to explain my love for Lauren Ralph Lauren versus Ralph Lauren Collection. As you know, Ralph Lauren Collection is the line we see showcased on the runway each season. We drool as beautiful models strut down the catwalk in outfits that make for fabulous red carpet attire, luxury lifestyle pieces and more glossy magazine covers than I could ever keep count of. Ralph Lauren Collection is the line that most collectors lust after, yet is priced at such a point where it is not “affordable” for all. I can count the number of collection pieces I have on two hands. However, Lauren Ralph Lauren is an interesting “assistant” to the brand. This line allows for a greater number of people to embrace the Ralph Lauren aesthetic. It allows most of us to embrace the Ralph Lauren look without parting with our 401k to do so. That being said, I would probably cash in on said 401k if it meant I could call some of Lauren’s most recent creations my own. This is a line that is dotted throughout my closet and in fact is most likely the most seen label in my collection. That beautiful green label pokes out everywhere and more often than not people recognise my pieces as Ralph Lauren but never identify them as Collection or Lauren Ralph Lauren. They simple recognise that they are all from the same styling family, and are in fact easy to style together should one have such a desire to do so.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about why this week was such a big event. Lauren Ralph Lauren has never before been showcased in a public manner. Sure, we’ve seen advertisements everywhere and the clothes themselves are regularly featured in editorial features in magazines, but never before has a runway been presented for all to see. On the night of the big event, we all gathered in the lobby of Hearst Towers where we would be led up to the 44th floor of the building for the show. Women filled the lobby wearing beautiful pieces from current and past collections. It was a wonderful showcase of Lauren Ralph Lauren style and the way in which it is translated for women of all walks of life. After we had all settled in our seats amongst the clouds in the sky, Nina Garcia took to the runway to introduce the show and the proud affiliation with Marie Claire who were showing this collection as the first ever runway to take place in the Hearst building.
The Ralph Lauren team took no shortcuts in this runway presentation for Lauren Ralph Lauren. All the usual catwalk models for the Ralph Lauren Collection show had been flown in for the event. Even Robyn Lawley, the Australian plus size model who made headlines last year for being the first plus size model to appear in a Ralph Lauren campaign, walked the runway looked resplendent in everything from floral prints to evening gowns. Had no one told me otherwise, I would have said this collection belonged at Lincoln Center. The styling of the products was second to none and the products themselves were fantastically in fashion and wonderfully constructed for those looking to invest in quality items for their wardrobes. The words that instantly came to mind included ‘preppy’, ‘nautical’, ‘tropical’ and ‘rich.’
For me, 2013 will be a Lauren Ralph Lauren summer. There wasn’t one look that made it’s way down the catwalk that I wouldn’t be proud to have in my ever growing collection. So watch this space as I’m sure you’ll see me talking about the products showcased in much more detail over the next few months. For now, however, here’s a quick look at some of my favourite looks from the collection. Many are available to purchase online and in store now and the remaining pieces will all be arriving soon so keep an eye out!
I would just like to say a massive thank you to the Ralph Lauren team who continue to put up with my unhealthy obsession for all things Ralph Lauren. As many of you already know, I credit this brand for being one of the reasons I became interested in the industry. Even after 25 years of being a die hard fan, I am still pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns they through at me, both from a consumer’s and journalist’s perspective.