By  on January 31, 2012

NEW YORK — The world of Ralph Lauren keeps getting bigger.

From patchwork sweater jackets and muted paisley ties to ribbed duffel bags and authentic small-scale replicas of the designer’s vaunted car collection, the fall offering has something for everyone.

“If there was a Hollywood of clothes, this would be it,” Lauren said during a walk-through of the latest collections at his Madison Avenue offices on Tuesday. The company’s myriad labels allow the man to “play any role you want. If you want to be a preppie, if you want to be a businessman on Wall Street, if you want to be a renegade in Utah. This is really about movies to me — and stories and details.”

The first story was Purple Label, the premium collection that took a leap forward this season with an updated silhouette with strong-shouldered jackets, slimmer pants and narrower lapels and a focus on what Lauren called the “country suit.”

“How do you stimulate the clothing business?” he asked. “All of men’s wear is about light suits and flat fabrics,” but Lauren took a different tack this time by focusing on beefier options such as tweeds. “The younger guy is tuning into that.”

“The bold pattern is new,” he said, and could be more subtle by using the patterns more sparingly. Jewel-toned dress shirts with semispread collars and slim ties also helped provide an updated look, with ties in more muted colors. His choice of fabric wasn’t as heavy as Harris Tweed, he said, but was softer and more malleable.

Purple Label formalwear also stepped out of the box with its plaid jackets and pants. “The tuxedo is very boring,” Lauren said. Celebrities believe that by opting for a shawl collar jacket and long black tie on top of the traditional white shirt, “they think that’s modern. But if you live in New York or internationally, this is an alternative to the tuxedo or dinner jacket. You look dressed up and it’s cool.”

Lauren said he expects this nontraditional formal option to appeal to young guys who “want a statement that is not ordinary but is very sophisticated and very classic.” He expects the look to take hold more easily outside the U.S. and appeal to the company’s customers in Europe, China and Russia. “America is slower to change,” he said, “and this has Old World charm.”

Even so, he said the popularity in the U.S. of PBS’ “Downton Abbey” may have an effect. “A lot of young girls are watching, so something is in the air,” Lauren said.

The Purple Label collection also featured a “sophisticated sportswear” component, which Lauren said was classically based and is targeted to the “Wall Street guy to wear on the weekends.” Here, the look centered on boldly colored cashmeres, knit jackets, dusty Fair Isle sweaters and supple leather jackets. The color palette focused on olive, worn with gray flannel trousers.

The Black Label collection continues to be a growth business for the company, Lauren said. The clothing here was “slim, shaped and simple — and racy,” he said. “Black Label is a sexy look. If Purple Label is an Aston Martin, this is a Ferrari. It’s for the guy who wants body fit.”

The color black continues to be the backbone of the collection but pops of color such as flaming orange, electric blue and taxicab yellow livened up the subdued palette.

Black Label sportswear, while still heavy on jeans, also offered textured sweaters, distressed leathers and a splash of olive with details that referenced motor sports and military influences.

“We’ve moved it more rugged,” he said. “It’s for his weekend and it’s sexier and cooler — very fit.” Key pieces included a sweater jacket and a canvas trenchcoat with a leather belt, as well as a distressed motorcycle jacket. Military influences and touches of fur, both of which were also found on the runways at the recent men’s shows in Europe, were also part of the mix.

Turning to the flagship Polo collection, the extensive offering was cleaner and more elegant this season, and ranged from boldly patterned après-ski sweaters to natural shoulder clothing. The shapes of the suits were “very clear,” Lauren said, as was the audience — the preppie customer. Again, tweeds were prevalent, often with flat front trousers with cuffs.

Polo sportswear options were vast, everything from hunting jackets and patchwork patterned sweaters to cargo pants, plaid sport shirts and a distressed leather jacket with a shearling lining. “Polo roughwear is a big business for us,” he said.

RRL, as usual sectioned off into its own room where strains of Johnny Cash and Guy Clark filled the air, mined vintage Western wear for its collection this season. “It’s a mining town,” the designer said, pointing to the retro corduroys, jeans and accessories.

The RLX collection continues to have its roots in activewear and technology but “it’s an extension of fashion,” he said. Brightly colored puffer jackets, accessories, sweaters and hats can be worn on the slopes, but also with jeans around town on the weekends. “This is not being sold at ski shops,” he said. “I’ve always liked sportswear with function and the electric colors look great.”

Accessories is also a growing business for the company and Lauren showed off small leather goods that ranged from tote bags and duffels to briefcases and wallets. Much of the line was inspired by cars and some sport a visible RL logo in the center for the first time this season. And speaking of cars, the company has now branched out into a separate category offering 1:8 replicas of some of the models in the designer’s private auto collection — complete with all the dents and materials in the originals. This includes a fire-engine red Ferrari 250 GTO model with a retail price of $9,500.

“We’re building a whole world for the man,” Lauren said.

But it’s not a whole new world — at least not for the Ralph Lauren man.

“Young kids grow up and go to work and the old guy is happy with what he’s got,” he said. “This was exciting 20 years ago and it’s exciting today. It’s not about what they’re showing in magazines, it’s about what they’re not showing. It’s not about what they can wear down the runway, it’s about how to make a cool statement.”

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