The Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren jeanswear concept now has a stake in the country that inspired it.
D&S, launched by Ralph Lauren Corp. in 2011, today will open its second U.S. store, and its first in New York, with a 4,000-square-foot shop at 99 University Place in Manhattan, the site of a former Rugby unit. Earlier this month, D&S cut the ribbon on its first U.S. store on the site of another former Rugby location at 342 Newbury Street in Boston.
David Lauren, executive vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications for Ralph Lauren, and the steward of the D&S brand, noted that even if D&S occupies former Rugby spaces, it’s in no way a replacement for that brand. “Rugby was always Polo’s younger brother, and we thought that with such a wide audience, Polo could serve that customer very well going forward,” he told WWD. “Denim has always been something we believed in, and every couple of years there’s a spark in the jeans market that takes it in a new direction. We look in the street and our offices and we see a market that’s in many ways untapped, and that’s even with denim represented throughout our collections.
“With Denim & Supply, we built the focus right into the name,” he continued. “We’re making a real effort to stay very relevant and very contemporary with it at the same time that we’re building our luxury brands. There’s a parallel progress.”
D&S already had a retail network for its youthful, denim-centric collection that draws heavily on jeans’ heritage of hard work and rugged individualism. Twelve freestanding D&S stores have been opened in Europe and Asia, where the collection is also carried in numerous specialty stores, and it’s had — and continues to have — a presence in Macy’s stores throughout the U.S. Sweden has three stores, Norway and Hong Kong two each and Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, The Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates one unit each. The collection also is available at denimandsupply.com, which can be accessed from the main Ralph Lauren site.
The expansion of D&S coincides with the company’s decision, disclosed last October, to discontinue its Rugby brand, as well as its accelerating effort to expand its retail portfolio, both in the U.S. and abroad, for a number of its brands, including Polo, women’s Blue Label, children’s and D&S.
“We’re articulating more clearly what we’ve begun to see as we go into markets such as the Middle East, Russia and Brazil, where vertical stores are the primary retail channel,” Roger Farah, president and chief operating officer of Ralph Lauren Corp., said in February during a discussion that included plans for Denim & Supply.
Lauren said that the company is continuing to explore opportunities for expansion but that there are currently no signed leases for future stores. Nor are there plans to either expand its U.S. wholesale activities beyond Macy’s or, for that matter, discontinue them. “We’re hoping to hit a home run with the stores in New York and Boston and, with the right traffic in those locations and on the Web, build anticipation in other markets. We think the stores will help Macy’s, which has been just a fantastic partner, and both clarify and strengthen the brand,” he said.
He declined to specify the brand’s volume or its rate of growth — Ralph Lauren Corp. has consistently declined to detail volume by collection or brand — but noted that demand has exceeded expectations, with men’s and women’s volume running about even.
From its name and its merchandise to the design of the stores, D&S draws heavily on denim’s unique place in American culture. The stores have brick walls, open ceilings, wooden floors and distressed black leather furniture, while black-and-white photos and concert posters reinforce the vintage feel, with the atmosphere elevated by polished aluminum spotlights and pendant lights.
The spring assortment is described as “vintage-inspired” and “perfectly distressed.” Like so many of the jeanswear lines in the market, it expands the concept to incorporate a myriad of highly casual concepts, from conceptually adjacent ideas like chambray cut-and-sewns and hooded sweatshirts to shorts, cargo pants and chinos. The women’s assortment addresses crossover, mix-and-match ideas like pairing of sleeveless vests with dresses.
Price points fit comfortably into the “sub-premium” category, with men’s jeans starting below $70 and moving over $100 for novelty looks, such as a slouch-fit painted jean sold online for $298.
At a company that prides itself on its ability to use fashion to tell stories, Lauren likens the archetypal D&S customer to a “cool couple living in a loft in Brooklyn. He’s a writer, she’s a poet and they have a friend who’s a musician,” he said.
Fittingly, “Brooklyn Summer” is the theme played out on the company’s Web site, although D&S moved an ocean away from Brooklyn when it tied in with Swedish DJ Avicii as the face of the brand and someone with whom it will tie in on various promotional efforts.
“We were lucky,” Lauren pointed out. “We started working with him just before he got really hot.”
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