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If you’ve ever stepped inside a Ralph Lauren store you know how completely transporting they are. Every room immerses you into the world of its particular label, from the lighting and furnishings to the soundtrack. And the flagships are so magical, often housed in landmark buildings, sometimes kitted out with amenities, they’re practically tourist attractions.
Impressively, an unparalleled reverence for the physical hasn’t stopped Ralph Lauren from becoming a pioneer in the digital space, too. The brand launched interactive dressing room mirrors before they were commonplace and has experimented with a variety of cutting-edge shopping technologies including a 4D fashion show and holographic window displays.
Now, the iconic American brand is bringing its two specialties together with The Ralph Lauren Virtual Experience. Launched earlier this year, the groundbreaking digital experience lets you enjoy the brand’s most glamorous flagships from Beverly Hills to Hong to New York and more – all without having to leave home. With thousands of shoppers taking advantage of the service every day, we decided to send an editor there to check it out. And by there, of course we mean from his computer, very much in his apartment. Here’s what he had to say.
Room One: Step Away From It All
Using the directory, I go straight for the Men’s Polo Room; which is exactly what I’d do if I were visiting the store in real life. The beautiful lighting, dark wood cabinetry, and warm, festive touches serve their purpose of instantly bringing me to another place. I’m no longer on Rodeo Drive or sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, I’m in the world of Polo Ralph Lauren.
And that’s when, like clockwork, inspiration strikes. Suddenly, I am someone who can pull off an American flag sweater and camouflage pants. Immediately, I realize I’m not wearing nearly enough jackets. I pick up—or in this case, click on—a pair of burnished Chelsea boots with a lug sole, the kind of elegant-rugged hybrid the label is famous for, and think of a dozen applications for them: slim corduroys and sweaters, wool suits, double dark denim. Having spent the last ten months almost exclusively in fleece-wear, it’s satisfying to think about really getting dressed again.
Room Two: Something for Everyone
High on Italian leather and ethically sourced down, I go back to the directory and check out the Men’s Special Objects Room. Another way to describe this alcove appointed with an antique farm table and styled with a variety of treasures, from concho belts and leather chess sets to cologne, is Holiday Gift Heaven.
A buttery soft shearling coat from RRL wins the award for Most Impossible to Resist. If I do some creative “what I’ve saved by not going out to eat” math combined with a gentle twisting of the definition of self care, I can justify the purchase. Next, I click over to a lambswool and cashmere plaid scarf from the label, which is artfully styled at the center of the gifting table. It would work for pretty much anyone on my list. That said, if I keep it for myself, I know I can wear it with the RRL shearling in my imaginary-for-now future. It’s all so tempting.
Room 3: The Cabled Cashmere Level
Feeling more comfortable with my virtual shopping environment, I turn to my right and see what’s in the next room over. Using navigational arrows along the floor, it’s easy to wander from room to room, pivoting around to see a particularly alluring display in more detail. I know I’ve landed in the rarified world of Purple Label when the color palette and textures of the clothes go from rich and rugged to subtle and ultra-soft. This is known as the Purple Label Sportswear room in the directory; the label also has rooms for tailored clothing and “classics” in the Beverly Hills flagship.
If the Ralph Lauren virtual store were a video game—and by now it’s feeling pretty darn close to that—then the brand’s cabled cashmere sweater would be that ever-present totem you find on every level. A mannequin in the Polo Room was wearing two at once, I noticed. Across from the Special Objects Room, I clocked a colorful stack of them. I can’t help but finally click on one styled on a mannequin in the Purple Label Sportswear room. Between the name of the vintage-looking color, “taupe melange”, and the product description, which lets me know the cashmere is “meticulously combed” from Mongolian goats, I’m deeply tempted. Is 2021 going to be the year I only wear head-to-toe neutrals?
Room 4: Discover…Jacket Envy
By now I’m in the deepest part of the store, which is the deepest part of the Ralph Lauren consciousness, which is the Double RL Room. RRL is the cowboy wardrobe of your childhood dreams and the “maybe we should move out to the country” of your adulthood ones too. I click on a Double RL poster, wanting to get a closer look, and it calls up the label’s latest catalog and look book. I may or may not have audibly whispered, “coooooooool” like a kid who just found a buried treasure map.
Halfway through the look book I spot a black plaid knit jacket that’s really speaking to me. It’s refined enough to dress up and wear out to the maskless holiday dinners of the future (let’s hope) but rugged enough for the socially distanced holiday nature walks of the present. The mannequin wearing the jacket back in the store also has on baggy chinos, a baseball cap, and red down parka. This is quarantine style as its absolute coolest. I needed this, I need this.
Room 5: The Holy Grail
To the right of the Double RL Room, I spy the large, extremely well appointed space where Purple Label Tailored Clothing dreams are made. It’s hard to imagine a digital shopping trip ever taking the place of having a suit custom fitted in the warm embrace of a Ralph Lauren store, but the virtual view of this room is impressive nonetheless. Having learned the poster trick in the previous room, I click on some artwork above the mantle at the center of the room and watch a very romantic menswear montage. Hi, I’m drunk on Purple Label Kool-Aid.
I tour the room slowly, taking every texture and color combination in, lingering for an especially long time in the velvet dinner jacket section, which would be perfect for a black-tie New Year’s Eve. My favorite find is a charcoal cashmere ribbed sweater with chocolate suede elbow patches. Just an absolutely ridiculous piece of luxury menswear but just wearable enough that I could totally imagine myself in it, in the socially distanced now. What a feat.