NEW YORK — A casual walk on water — at Ralph Lauren, why not?
Tonight, the designer will stage his Polo for Women runway show in Central Park with groundbreaking technology that will bring a fourth dimension to the waters of the park’s Cherry Hill Lake. The show is an evolution of 2010’s 4-D presentation at Ralph Lauren’s flagship in London and the women’s boutique at 888 Madison Avenue here.
“This is actually a new technology of water projections,” said David Lauren, Ralph Lauren Corp.’s executive vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications. “You pump water about five stories into the air, and from behind it you shoot a video onto it, which then creates a holographic effect.”
The water serves as a screen for a film of the show. Lauren called the production “an art-meets-technology-meets-water-projection-meets-fashion. The idea was to reinvent the fashion show on water, with videos and technology.”
Ralph Lauren’s in-house team collaborated with several movie production houses to help with the special effects, including ones who worked on special effects for “Godzilla” and “The Hobbit” series.
The water will shoot up into the air, and the 11-minute video will be projected against it. It’s going to make a splash, which is just the intention.
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“We need a lot of fanfare around Polo,” said Lauren. “We thought, what are we going to do to make the brand fresh, new, young so people know it’s got a new sensibility? I don’t want them to look at Polo and say, ‘Well I know Polo — it’s classic, it’s traditional.’ I want them to feel it’s downtown, it’s urban. How are you going to give it that New York feel?”
Lauren approached the Parks Commission for permission. The company made an undisclosed donation to Central Park in order to be able to hold the show there.
“We brought water projections, and went out to a lake in New Jersey at about 10 o’clock at night during a massive thunderstorm,” Lauren recalled of testing the technology. “We lowered up the water projections and beamed our ‘Dog Walk’ we did last year, because it was the only thing that we had recently shot against a green screen.”
Last month, the company filmed models walking against a green screen in a studio in Queens, and digitally re-created parts of New York City for the models to then walk through. But, this being Ralph Lauren, it’s both a real and an imagined New York, digitally re-created brick by brick.
The show will begin with the moon rising out of the water, and then lead into various New York scenes, from women walking down a cobblestoned street, to the Brooklyn Bridge, a lighthouse, and newspapers rolling down the street and a moment at a Ralph’s Coffee coffee truck — with meticulously planned transitions between the scenes and set to an original score. It’s literally a movie.
The 9 p.m. time slot was selected for a specific reason — the technology required a certain level of darkness for a stronger effect.
Polo is bringing in extra water, and installing backup pumps and a sound system for the occasion. While Lauren declined to disclose the cost of the production, it is substantial, justified by the potential versatility and reach of the project.
“The reason to do this is not just for fashion week or for a fashion show, but to create something that was mobile,” he noted. “We’re talking about taking it to Singapore, and [elsewhere] as we roll out Polo stores around the world. We’re going to be opening in major cities around the world in the next couple of years.”
Because of the “substantial” cost, the company is also staging the event three times in New York. Tonight is earmarked for press and VIPs. On Tuesday, the production will open to the public, while Wednesday night is intended for the house’s top customers. A fourth, rain check night is a possibility, although the weather gods seem to be playing in the designer’s favor this week.
“We’re not looking at this as just a fashion show,” Lauren said. “The real value is the lateral value.”
A simulation taped over the weekend, for example, will be available on the company’s Web site as part of the major social media push behind the show.
“We’re engaging in digital influencers,” said Malcolm Carfrae, Ralph Lauren’s global head of communications, public relations and media. “It won’t be just the people at Central Park seeing it. It will be completely global. We want the video of the event, of the actual runway show, to go viral with digital influencers who are a combination of VIPs, bloggers and models.”
The viral reach, via Ralph Lauren’s own digital platforms and hashtags, is expected to be extensive, and could be as high as 100 million, according to some estimates.
The Ralph Lauren company has been a pioneer in embracing technological innovation, having just introduced the Polo Tech compression shirt that reads biological and physiological information via sensors knitted into the product. This show fits into the brand strategy. As Lauren put it, “We wanted to make sure people saw our brand as modern, young and tech-y.”