Byline: Lisa Lockwood
Everything’s abbreviated at Ralph by Ralph Lauren this season. Hemlines are stopping high on the thigh in plaid mohair and pinstriped wool jumpers and A-line skirts. Even the classic polo shirt shows up in the guise of a slinky minidress. But it’s not just the hems that are coming up short: Fuzzy sweaters cropped at the waist and teeny baby Ts finish the look.
NEW YORK — Ralph Lauren appears to have hit a homer with Ralph, his younger and less expensive sportswear collection.
Launched for spring 1994 selling, Ralph is currently being shipped to 400 doors nationwide.
“It represents 80 percent of our volume, with the casual parts of it, including activewear,” said Stuart Kreisler, a consultant to Ralph Lauren Womenswear. “You’re looking at a business that will do in excess of $100 million the first year.
“The thing we’re most proud of was Ralph was able to reinvent himself and address a more modern wardrobe, expand who the customer is and address our customer’s casual needs,” said Kreisler.
Ralph was created from the various product categories the company was already doing, such as Roughwear and Classifications, areas that Kreisler said “needed to be redefined.” Those lines had been distributed to 570 doors, but the company decided to incorporate them into Ralph, reduce the account structure to 400 and present a better-balanced collection.
“We traded business, but we’re doing more volume per door than before,” added Jeff Aschkenes, a partner in the management of the business.
Kreisler explained that the company wasn’t looking to “merchandise off the Ralph Lauren name or a key item,” but rather present a total fashion image that includes sweaters, dresses, jackets and eveningwear at price points one-third below the Collection.
For fall, the Ralph line wholesales from $9 for a little T-tank to $250 for special novelty jackets and outerwear pieces.
Ralph is distributed to stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as the Polo stores. Kreisler said that 60 to 70 percent of the doors will have shop concepts, independent from the Collection shops.
“It’s doing extremely well,” said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president, fashion direction, at Bloomingdale’s. “So many young girls want to wear Ralph Lauren, and now they can afford his young looks.
“Perhaps the biggest seller was the slipdress with the T-shirt. I don’t think one thing can be credited with that huge trend. But the [Ralph] ad with Bridget Hall wearing that look had a big, big impact. We’re in the midst this summer of one of the biggest trends we’ve ever seen.”
Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue said, “We had some nice successes with the spring line. It’s a new direction for Ralph. I think their marketing is totally correlated to the image of the line, which is good.”
Nordstrom is also having success with the line.
“The Ralph business is very strong for us in the city region, especially downtown San Francisco and Palo Alto,” noted Sandy King, Northern California regional merchandise manager for Studio 121 and Active Sportswear at Nordstrom. “Our customers are really enjoying the new Ralph fashion line.”