Ralph Lauren has been round and round with great ideas and new selections based on trends and emerging technology. Over the years the company has tried many offshoots that were well designed, but folded them back into their regular collection after brief unsuccessful runs. RUGBY and Denim & Supply are two of the most recent. RUGBY was a great line of collegiate-inspired clothing that was priced below the RRL line, yet offered many of the same great designs in different materials. Sadly, it went away after 2 years and was replaced by Denim & Supply, which was targeted more at the 20-something crowd. There were some gems within the line over the 2 or so seasons, but in order to make it affordable they were forced to use less expensive materials in their manufacturing and they sacrificed quality. Again, it was folded into the regular Polo line last year. I can only hope it will force the Polo line to gain a bit of the edginess that both the RUGBY and D&S lines had, as Polo has been flavorless for 2 decades, almost as if they are waiting for the 80’s prep movement to swing back into fashion. Once and a while you can find a piece in the Polo line that borrows concepts from RUGBY and D&S, but it is rare and a bit watered down to cater to the conservative Polo customer.
This season RL has introduced the first of its customizable garments, most likely playing off the success of smaller makers lines like Hometown Jersey. Their first foray to put their toes in the water is a customizable knit sweater, where the buyer “designs” their own knit sweater with changeable elements. It runs $198 and they promise it is delivered in 4 weeks. I took a stab at it and this is what I came up with:
Time will tell whether this is a successful product, or whether they will add different styles, such as Rugby shirts. RL has always made great patches, so we can only hope they move forward in this arena. I still think their best work is in RRL, but most of the time the prices make it prohibitive to add much to the wardrobe, especially when most of it is manufactured in China. The designs in RRL are great, but sometimes the Chinese materials don’t warrant the premium pricing. If RL can expand the customize program and keep the pricing down I think they will find success with this part of the line. Hometown Jersey is more affordable than RL’s first sweater option, and because Hometown Jersey is a small U.S. company with a quality handmade product, and the fact that they have amazing friendly people at the helm, I am less inclined to jump on one of the RL sweaters. I like RL, but I REALLY like Hometown Jersey, so I will wait to see what’s next in the line for RL.