polo online store The New York Times

new polo boots The New York Times

LONDON Before a thousand eyes, the gracious Ralph Lauren store will seem to vanish from sight. Then, in the empty space, the mansion on London’s New Bond Street is to re emerge brick by brick, until the facade opens, to be filled by giant, striding models, four stories tall, their rose patterned skirts then morphing into beds of flowers.

“It’s game changing it blows my mind it changes the way we look at architecture; it will change retail, movies, advertising, everything,” says David Lauren, son of the brand’s founder, of the spectacle and the new technology that makes it possible.

This “ultimate collision of fashion, art and technology” celebrates a decade of the less well known side of the patrician brand: its digital universe. And Ralph Lauren is using the event to introduce in Britain for the first time outside the United States its e commerce operation, which already produces $200 million a year in the United States.

On Wednesday, Ralph Lauren plans to offer the public a futuristic vision in which “architectural mapping” technology is used on the store facade, creating what the brand calls a “4 D” experience and what David Lauren calls “Steven Spielberg meets James Cameron.”

This latest dramatic development is part of what the company calls “merchan tainment,” the concept of commerce with entertainment, which it previously has offered through lifestyle films on RLTV, its own production operation, as well as initiatives with sports.

But the new “augmented reality” project is in another league.

“We put our hearts and souls into this,” says Mr. Lauren of the sound and light show created by superimposing optical effects created by pinpointed pixels of light over a projected 3 D replica of the building.

This sensory experience complete with sound and even a mist of fragrance will not be staged only in London. One of the brand’s New York stores also will get a similar eye popping show.

The company image may be of a grandee brand, more associated with the 29 vintage cars that Ralph Lauren collected with passion (the video is on RLTV) than with social networks, iPhone applications and cross platform advertising campaigns.

Yet last month the company was ranked second, tying with Louis Vuitton, in the Digital IQ Index for luxury companies, developed by Scott Galloway, a professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University, and a team of experts. The index measures a brand’s digital footprint across four categories: effectiveness of the Web site,
polo online store The New York Times
digital marketing, social media and mobile phone or “m commerce.”

Mr. Galloway gave low ratings to many of the 109 brands in the study, saying that 2010 had “been a seminal year for the luxury industry. Some brands have put the weight of their organization behind digital, while others have stood still and have been left behind.”

Ralph Lauren was second only to Coach and ranked better than some obvious names like Burberry, Dolce Gabbana and Gucci.

“We were the first brand to blend ‘merchan tainment’ so seamlessly,” says the young executive. “You see a beautiful car, you read an article about the car and watch the videos. You see a dog and you can ask where you get the dog and read an article on dog breeders.”

Mr. Lauren is passionate about pushing ahead in cyberspace and is the instigator of most of the brand’s new developments. They have included an interactive collaboration with the tennis legend Boris Becker, who not only offered advice in a RLTV video, but also responded to questions from the public.

Yet brick and mortar stores are still the most visible signs of the prestige and of the image of Ralph Lauren. The New Bond Street store, which will be the backdrop for the digital extravaganza, already has windows filled with red and green plaid, a sprinkling of snow on ivy and gilded horse’s heads ringed with Christmas garlands.

Other big store statements include the new men’s wear store that joined the women’s wear mansion store on Madison Avenue in New York last month. Like the Paris store on Boulevard Saint Germain, unveiled last spring, these buildings create a tangible and lasting heritage.

But the company’s digital time line over the last decade also shows a stream of innovation. The RL magazine, with its video and print interviews with movers and shakers, as well as lifestyle, sports, art and design, came in 2001.

Mr. Lauren says that when the company first started online selling, “sales were sluggish.” But heavy investment in customer service has fueled sales that now make annual results of e commerce “easily our largest store in America,” he adds.

By 2006, the digital experiments introduced an interactive shopping experience, using touch technology on store windows to generate sales. retailer to introduce mobile commerce, using swipes of QR (quick response) bar codes.

The latest innovations have been the iPhone application, offering instant viewing of the runway shows; and the embrace of social networking and customer involvement.

There seems no doubt that the passionate enthusiasm for the digital world from David Lauren has made the difference. He himself is the interviewer in most of the RLTV video clips, from talking to the actress Julianne Moore about her Freckleface Strawberry children’s books to discussing with Kevin Costner both his personal style and his passion for ecology.

For all his commitment and enthusiasm about the new spectacular, Mr. Lauren gives the plaudits to his father, who, at 70 and like most of his generation has not moved into the digital universe. Yet, according to his son, he made the crucial decision 10 years ago.
polo online store The New York Times

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