By and  on February 20, 2008

NEW YORK — Now that American Living, the brainchild of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.'s new Global Brand Concepts division, is rolling out to 600 J.C. Penney stores nationwide, the question is: What's next?

American Living — a soup-to-nuts concept of 40-plus categories from women's to men's wear, children's, accessories and home — isn't only the biggest brand launch in Penney's history, it represents a major business opportunity for Polo. The designer and his team oversaw a seemingly herculean task in creating the first brand for Global Brand Concepts, which his company launched last year as a way to develop private label brands for retailers using the expertise and talent pool at Polo. Penney's became the first customer.

"With the creation of American Living, our goal was to develop a brand that would bring timeless style to the new customer in a way that had never been done before," Ralph Lauren said.

For now, though, Global Brand Concepts has no plans to introduce another one.

"This was really a big project," said Roger Farah, Polo's president and chief operating officer. "It has tested our capabilities to execute a completely new brand, and I think we did a superb job and we'll see what the customer says. I think we want to get a reaction to this, and make whatever adjustments before we are going to take on another brand, although from the beginning, it's always been our intent to use Global Brand Concepts as an incubator for stand-alone businesses."

Penney's has the domestic exclusive for American Living, and Farah cited the brand's global potential with other retail chains as a vehicle for Global Brand Concepts' growth. Penney's alone is projecting that American Living could be a $1 billion brand.

"There is an opportunity to take product and do it on a global basis," Farah said. "Our experiences as a company in Europe and in Asia give us some sense of what the international opportunities for brands are once they are healthy and prosperous. Whether we take American Living internationally over time, or whether we create unique brands for domestic partners or international partners, I think we have high hopes for the long-term potential for this business. Penney's has their stores domestically and our initial focus is on that, but in our mind, the question then becomes, can we do the international distribution in Europe or Asia or South America, where Penney's does not have distribution? We'll see. Particularly, as we want to be careful about the distribution of Ralph Lauren product on a worldwide basis, this gives us an avenue to express our creativity through new channels."

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