Happy Birthday Ralph Lauren

To celebrate Ralph Lauren’s birthday this week, I thought it would be interesting to take a look into the history of the world’s most digitally innovative fashion brand.

The brand was founded by its namesake in 1967 and now boasts over 600 stores worldwide. In 2000, Ralph Lauren launched its online store, one of the first luxury brands to do so, during a time when many were skeptical about online shopping. Jennifer Sokolowsky from Brand Channel explains “luxury brands are all about creating an exclusive experience – or the perception of one”. It was thought that by selling online, a brand’s exclusivity would lessen due to the unprecedented access that consumers have to the brand and its products. However, Ralph Lauren reflected their marketing ideology of “merchantainment” to create interest not in its individual products, but in the entire brand itself as a lifestyle that customers could buy. RalphLauren.com is now 12 years old and amongst hosting an incredibly successfully online store, it gives visitors access to the Ralph Lauren’s personal Style Guide, celebrity interviews on RL TV, and travel, sport and food information in its quarterly online lifestyle magazine, RL Magazine.

Instead of the traditional product displays both in store and on online stores, Ralph Lauren aims for interactivity in the buying process. In 2005, Ralph Lauren was the first retail brand to live-stream its runway collection online for immediate purchase. Users could click and purchase brand new items as the models walked down the catwalk. In 2006, Ralph Lauren introduced the first shoppable windows in their New York stores, taking the term “window-shopping” literally. Passersby could view products through an interactivity television display and make purchases. Typically, there is a six-month delay between the debut runways and when the items land in stores. In 2010, the RL Gang online storybook was released which features characters wearing Ralph Lauren childrenswear that can be bought as the story progresses. This attributed to a 300% jump in children’s clothing sales.

Without a doubt the most digitally innovative project by Ralph Lauren was the world’s first public 4D show involving 3D digital mapping, sound effects and scent diffusion. The short film, which was projected onto the buildings of Ralph Lauren’s flagship New York and London stores, featured a runway show and a polo game. Most impressively, when the film honoured Ralph Lauren’s signature perfume range, perfume was actually sprayed from the windows of the building showering the crowd beneath (see video below). The event was a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of RalphLauren.com and signaled a future of digitally forward and creative initiatives from the luxury brand.