By  on March 17, 2010

NEW YORK — Polo Ralph Lauren is delving deeper into technology and social media for its latest runway outing.

Today, Polo will stage the first-ever fashion show for the Lauren by Ralph Lauren brand. The event will mark the second time the company ventures online to present a new collection after Rugby’s virtual show in December, and like Rugby, it will feature footage of real models on the runway in spring looks customers can order immediately.

However, Polo this time has injected a social media twist. Mimicking the front row of a real fashion show, the Lauren online event will feature live commentary about each of the 21 looks from several Hearst Magazines editors. Adding an interactive touch, Lauren shoppers can directly send style questions to these editors, which they will answer for four days following today’s show.

David Lauren, Polo’s senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications, noted the Rugby show was “a big success” for the company and both sell-throughs and the overall brand exposure beat expectations for the initiative. Because Rugby is smaller and less marketed than the better-price brand, which is one of the largest in department stores, the executive sought to incorporate a new element that would not only help draw consumers but also raise the label’s fashion profile. To that end, Polo partnered with Hearst Corp. and the show will feature commentary from Marie Claire fashion director Nina Garcia, Harper’s Bazaar executive fashion and beauty editor Avril Graham, Cosmopolitan fashion director Michelle McCool and O, The Oprah Magazine creative director Adam Glassman.

The page that will display the online show will feature links to each editor’s video commentary, and viewers will be able to toggle between them to listen to their opinions on each look.

“Editors in general offer a fashion credibility,” Lauren said. “This was a wonderful opportunity to work with the people who can give an objective comment on our site. That was our goal.”

To further enhance the “buy-now, wear-now” element of the program, Polo is partnering with Bloomingdale’s, as well as Globus and Peek & Cloppenburg in Germany and House of Fraser in the U.K. These retailers will feature the show, replete with editor comments, on their own Web sites, and allow customers to shop directly for the looks. Each magazine’s Web site also will link to the show from a location on the site’s editorial pages. Essentially, the show becomes a multichannel platform that links Lauren, the wholesale partners and editors, and serves to cross-promote each. Polo officials said there is no corresponding advertising package in the four Hearst titles, nor on the magazines’ Web sites.

Hearst Magazines executive vice president, chief marketing officer and publishing director Michael Clinton found the technological and interactive elements of the concept appealing. “It’s the convergence of a lot of innovation that is going on in the market,” Clinton said. “We have always looked at unlocking the DNA of our magazine brands, and our editors represent our brands. To show how we can take consumers right to the point of purchase is a beautiful thing.” But what if the editors, who were filmed discussing trends in their offices, didn’t like one or more of the looks? Lauren stressed the editors were asked to be objective, with commentary “that is real and honest. We welcome the dialogue, and our customer wants something that is truthful and honest.

“They are not here to promote us, but here to be a part of the dialogue they would be having with their own readers,” he added.

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