• Warren Shoulberg

Home Again for Ralph Lauren

NEW YORK - Maybe Ralph Lauren Land isn't exactly what they were going for, but the new Polo store complex at 72nd Street and Madison Avenue here is probably the most spectacular themed retail campus to be found anywhere.
The new Ralph LaurenThe new Ralph Lauren store is the feminine counterpart to the original Rhinelander Mansion Madison Avenue flagship and includes an expanded home department.
     Three stores - including the new beaux arts mansion that houses an unprecedented Ralph Lauren Home floor - represent the state of the upstairs art in merchandising luxury products.
     The new home for home tops the latest addition to the Polo stable, a 22,000-squarefeet structure across the street from the landmark Rhinelander mansion store, which now is being used exclusively for men's, and next to a free-standing children's store. Home had previously been on the top floor of the original store but its move across the street represents a doubling of retail selling space and the chance to show the line in an expanded setting.
     "Over 25 years ago, I stood on the corner of Madison and 72nd Street and watched the amazing restoration of the Rhinelander mansion," said Ralph Lauren. "Today I stand on the opposite corner reveling once again in the elegant beauty of the new mansion.
     "It is the most romantic setting for all my women's collections, accessories, fine jewelry and home." The space allows for both lifestyle and classification presentations and for its opening last month, there were three groups on display, each elaborately vignetted and featuring Ralph Lauren bedding, furniture, lighting and decorative accessories. No Lauren Ralph Lauren product is included, that line being reserved for distribution through the traditional department store channel.
     Textiles, lighting and window hardware are shown in classification displays and there is also an extensive giftware department. The company is rolling out an expanded gift line, separate and apart from its Lauren licensed program through Fitz and Floyd. Included in the gift area are some one-of-a-kind vintage items as well.
Ralph Lauren Home     The entry to the home floor, either by elevator or a grand marble staircase, is a swing shop which for the opening had a mix of books, gifts and soft home, centered on a giant, life-size horse sculpture. This area will go to a holiday assortment later this month and will progress to other seasonal displays, although books will always be a central element.
     There is also a design center with work table, fabric and wall covering library and lighting and window hardware. Custom monogramming is also available.
     On the home floor as well as throughout the building, it's the details that truly distinguish the new store. While most of the structure itself is new, replacing an existing Ralph Lauren store that housed its Sport line, the company said "the exterior's neo-classical French design is inspired by the architectural heritage of the Upper East Side" and indeed, the building looks like it has been there as long as its near-twin across the street. The new store does incorporate an existing town house that faced 72nd Street but it has been incorporated into the new structure in a largely seamless match.
     The limestone building is accented with beaux-arts detailing, including brackets, corbels, elaborate wall coverings and dramatic lighting throughout. There is even a second floor terrace overlooking Madison Avenue.
     The first floor of the new structure houses accessories, footwear and the first Ralph Lauren fine jewelry and watch department. The second and third floors are reserved for the various women's collections, including Black Label, Blue Label and RLX. There is also a made to measure department, another first, and a VIP dressing room that is as large as a good-sized Manhattan one bedroom apartment.
     Virtually all of the furniture, wall and window coverings, lighting and wall art throughout the women's areas are from the home collection.
     Across the street, the original store has been turned over totally to men's, although it too does include a gift area with books, games and some one-of-a-kind finds including a $12,000 record turntable.
     Lauren himself describes the new building as the feminine counterpart to the original mansion. "It fulfills my dream of the ultimate experience for women in New York City."

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