Polo Ralph Lauren hopes that shoppers and pedestrians walking by its Fifth Avenue and 55th Street flagship are knocked out by the scene unfolding in the window, in which two athletes are sparring in a stylish ring. But all is not what it seems to be.
“The boxing gloves and lockers are real, but the boxers are not,” said David Lauren, executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and corporate communications at Ralph Lauren Corp. “They’re holograms. The window literally packs a strong punch.”
Lauren chose the high-tech route to herald the arrival of Polo Sport, a collection that lay dormant for 20 years and is now being relaunched, and its marquee wearable tech product, the Polo Tech shirt. Both go on sale today.
Holograms are difficult to pull off. “They’re like ghosts,” said Lauren. “The art of the hologram is incredibly complex. Doing it in a window in broad daylight is unprecedented.”
Lauren has been obsessed with holograms ever since he saw 1977’s “Star Wars” and the scene in which a hologram of Princess Leia tells Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 that the universe can be saved. “I was amazed,” Lauren said. “It’s almost a childhood dream. I think every kid who grew up in the Seventies thought it’s so cool. It’s been a buzzword for my generation.”
It’s not the company’s first brush with holograms, or ghosts, as they’re called. Polo Ralph Lauren created a holographic runway show in Central Park last year where “models” walked on water wearing the brand’s spring 2015 collection.
It seems fitting that Ralph Lauren, the originator of the “lifestyle” notion as it relates to fashion, should be on the cusp of the next lifestyle trend: athleticwear and wearable technology.
“Ralph was the first to create shop-in-shop environments at Bloomingdale’s,” said his son. “He brought his lifestyle and the store into our lives and our culture.”
Now the company is taking the sets and environments Lauren invented and moving them into the future. “We’ve been championing and experimenting with the newest technology and putting it together to reimagine the retail experience,” Lauren said, noting that the brand used shoppable touch screens in its windows. “Slowly, you’ll begin to see this technology implemented in all kinds of retail experiences. In a few weeks you can see a fashion show happening holographically in front of you [in store] not a video.
“We’re putting together a team now that’s looking at all kinds of technology for our stores and looking at all kinds of product development,” Lauren said. “Right now we have a very limited team that knows about a few technologies.”
While the Polo Sport and Polo Tech window has lots of bells and whistles, touch-screen shopping isn’t one of them.
“We wanted a statement that focuses on the hologram,” Lauren said. “You can hover your hand over the screen to make an image turn.”
Lauren said the company doesn’t break out costs, but added that the price tag for the window “is not over the top.”
The team worked on a model of the window in Long Island City, N.Y. A few hours before the unveiling Tuesday night, Lauren said he was not sure everything would work as planned. A reading from the Polo Tech shirt he’s been wearing, which reads heart rate and breathing depth among other signals, indicated his blood pressure was soaring. “There’s such anxiety and excitement, and with that comes panic,” he said. “Our goal is to have some fun and to make shopping exciting. We want to make people dream again.”