Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ralph Lauren

Has any designer captured the true spirit of America as much as Ralph Lauren? With his fashion and homeware, he has elevated the spirit of the West and made it the heart of the U.S. fashion scene. Then single-handedly, Ralph has taken the style offshore with some signature stores in London and Paris presenting themselves as beautiful examples of romantic ranch living. He’s also opened a new store in South Beach which is white hot, and his signature Madison Avenue store is an experience not to be missed.

In November, Ralph Lauren and his wife were on the front cover of just about every U.S. magazine ranging from Architectural Digest to Vogue as he launched the incredible, huge, hardback coffee table book of his life in fashion. I’ve got battered old Ralph Lauren homeware leather sofas in my Lakeside Cottage in Grasmere and I guess most of us have got some Lauren polo shirts, sweaters or chinos lurking in our wardrobes.

Saatchi & Saatchi is embarking on a wonderful adventure with Ralph Lauren and JCPenney with the introduction of a new range of American Living fashions and homeware. This is a coup by JCPenney CEO, Mike Ullman, who goes back years with Ralph and has a neighboring ranch to him in Colorado. Recently they all went to see Bob Dylan perform in a Woodstock-like field next to the ranch. It rained. I’ve got a great mental picture of these two mighty CEOs, huddled together in front of the make-shift stage, sheltered from the rain under Ralph Lauren ponchos, both thinking it was Woodstock all over again.

Anyway, what’s driving me to write about this is another terrific Ralph Lauren experience I had in the Windy City, Chicago. Right opposite the Park Hyatt and Water Tower is a Ralph Lauren store. Next to that is his only restaurant - RL Restaurant. It’s terrific. Wholesome, comfort food (don’t miss out on the Liver and Bacon) with great French wines and a terrific atmosphere. It feels like you’re eating in Ralph’s living room with beautiful framed photographs across the walls and, of course, Ralph Lauren table and homeware throughout. The wait and bar staff are old school. It’s a beautiful, comfortable way to wrap up an evening – especially when surrounded by 5 inches of freshly fallen snow.