Monday, 20 July 2015

Ralph Lauren: Status or Style?

The recent disruption to Ode 2 Vogue has been due to a week consisting solely of me working an event for Ralph Lauren. Whilst surrounded by luminous, highlighter inspired polos, I began wondering about Ralph Lauren’s place in the fashion world.

Certainly the Polo Ralph Lauren and RLX collections are nothing but a status symbol. They scream ‘I can spend £90 on a shirt’, ‘I want other people to know I have a healthy bank balance’ and ‘I’m insecure about my social status’. The clothing in these collections is neither stylish nor chic, it is merely a means by which a person can affirm their own wealth in the eyes of others. Personal style is about being confident in what you wear, and whilst a lurid Ralph Lauren Polo can provide a moment of self-assurance, it only serves to create a dependency on brand exhibiting.

Turning our attention to Ralph’s other labels creates a different image, however. Collection, Black Label, RRL and Lauren are aimed at a different audience to its Polo range. They range from easy daytime style, to polished tailoring, to evening glamour – all connected by the absence of a certain stark pony logo. The exact reason why some people buy a Ralph Lauren polo induces others to pay far more for the logo’s exclusion.

These collections do have style. They carry a minimalist, sleek elegance which exudes quality and that ‘investment piece’ air which we are so often reminded to think of in this high consumption age. When Ralph Lauren advertisements are featured in Vogue, Bazaar, or Elle, it is pieces from its higher end collections which we see. There are leather boots and handbags to last you for years, evening dresses which a mother could share with her delighted daughter, and cashmere aplenty. They are items which whisper that you’re successful and stylish, they don’t scream for attention like that incandescent lime green tennis skirt does.

I’ve been caught in the Ralph Lauren trap too and even own a couple of polos myself, but having spent the last week in Polo Ralph Lauren Land, I came to realise that this part of the luxury lifestyle brand was not luxury at all: it was social insecurity in material form. Sure, a navy blue polo probably is my style and I’ll probably buy one again in the future, but next time I stand, considering a top so brightly coloured that it looks like it belongs on a six year old, I’ll think again.

Ralph Lauren is clearly a brand of two sides: Status and Style, and I now know which team I’d like to be on. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analysis of polo shirts -- indeed this is the case of many brands which carry starkly branded items and more fashionable non-blaring items. Thanks for stopping by the other day. This site is fabulous!

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