If Ralph Lauren (New York) wanted to create a buzz on Fifth Avenue, mission accomplished. From the moment customers enter the newly opened 28,000-square-foot Polo flagship, they are immersed in a multi-layered, highly curated retail experience.
Lifestyle merchandising and experiential shopping await as customers are welcomed into a three-story-high entryway that serves as a decompression zone from the hyperactivity of Fifth Avenue to the relaxed playful energy of Polo Ralph Lauren.
Upon crossing the threshold, visitors are transported to another place and possibly another time. Visions of a crew house near the Charles River, a weekend cabin in the Adirondacks, or a hunting lodge in Telluride come to mind. And yet, in a nod to the younger customer it’s courting here, a large-format video screen is positioned vertically at the entrance. The vestibule area also provides views into different parts of the store, promoting a sense of space, activity and engagement.
The building’s neoclassical limestone façade, formerly home to a Disney store, was built in 1927. Traveling through the space is a journey through a series of architectural moments that all harmonize with the product. The patina of the aged wood trim, cabinetry and wall units perfectly complements the patina of the leather jacket highlighted on a focal mannequin grouping. All of the perimeter woodwork is reclaimed southern heart pine from textile mills in Georgia and Louisiana that date back to the 1860s.
A hallmark of any Ralph Lauren retail environment is a painstaking attention to detail and authenticity. This philosophy and aesthetic sensibility demanded a great deal of restoration. The design approach was to give a modern twist to yesteryear’s retail, while capturing the spirit of another time and place. Exposed sprinkler heads and piping add to the architectural authenticity of the period, while 2-inch-thick wooden wall shelves and reclaimed aged oak flooring throughout enhance the aesthetic while promoting sustainability. A company spokesperson refers to it as, “subliminal retail design.” The accumulation of subtle details such as antique ventilation grills and vintage holophane lighting fixtures, together with dynamic focal points such as strategically positioned working fireplaces, evoke images of an aspirational lifestyle.
The highest standards of visual merchandising are consistent throughout as a layer of one-of-a-kind curated objects, including wall cases with old-fashioned Edison light bulbs, fully merchandised antique pool tables, vintage guitars and reclaimed industrial benches, set the mood and tell a story. A found Navajo lodge sign, and the ever-present high-gloss canoes suspended overhead, add a pop of color while leading visitors through the space. All of the floor fixtures are found objects as well. According to a company spokesperson, “The merchandising ties seamlessly into the space to convey various lifestyle vignettes, presented in a youthful and inviting way.”Advertisement
A centrally located staircase wrapping around the elevator features white walls and photographic art, drawing customers to the whitewashed brick walls of the women’s floors above. In a gesture of ironic contrast, a high-tech video screen on an antique easel serves as a welcoming entry to the second floor. The embracing attitude of the upper floors is that of a New York girl living in an elegant Brooklyn loft.
Not to be missed is Ralph’s Coffee on two. With the corner window of the shop overlooking Fifth Avenue, and providing a birds-eye view of the 19th Century Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and the venerable Peninsula Hotel, the environment is as irresistible as the designer coffee. The front room, anchored by a communal table in a library-like setting, complete with both vintage and modern books, sets a relaxed and comfortable tone. The corner room completes the story with a vintage neon sign and whitewashed curved wood seats inspired by benches found on early 20th Century ferry boats.
The iconic 47-year-old brand remains timeless and universal. The new flagship on Fifth Avenue is a fitting stage for the world of Polo Ralph Lauren.
Embracing Whole-Brained Thinking in the Design Journey
Strategy needs creative, and creative needs strategy—yep, having both is really the only way of unifying all disciplines with a common vernacular with an eye toward building a strong creative vision that is foundational to the processes. Hear from Bevan Bloemendaal, former VP, Global Environments & Creative Services at Timberland, how to connect the dots between disciplines, claiming and creating a clear differentiation for the brand and ensuring that any asset (experience, product, ad, store, office, home, video, game) is created with intention.
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