Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The New Ralph Lauren Flagship at 711 Fifth Avenue

Ralph Lauren Flagship at 711 Fifth Avenue
Until now, men have had all the fun at Ralph Lauren stores in NYC. Well, maybe not always, but since the addition of the new mansion on Madison Avenue, which houses the women's collections, the men's lines have had the old mansion across the street all to themselves -- there was even a rumor that a whiskey bar would be added in, which certainly would not be out of place among the mostly dark wood walls. Meanwhile, the new mansion on Madison Avenue, which houses the women's lines, is light, and elegant and grand. It is a beautiful store full of new grandeur and extreme elegance. There is a magical quality to the way the collections are laid out, and I find myself admiring dresses on mannequins from a respectful distance as if in a museum. The fourth floor, with its wonderful housewares department, is full of little vignettes set up so perfectly that for a moment one can pretend to live in each of the perfectly silent stories.

While I appreciate the impressive beauty of the new mansion, the grand rooms and marble do make me miss the familiarity of the old mansion across the street. Across the street there are old wooden floors, old rugs, and an overall feel of history to the building. Both mansions are beautiful, but there is something so cozy and inviting about the way the old mansion is laid out with each of its many rooms offering new delights to be discovered around each corner.

Having become very accustomed to both of the mansions on Madison Avenue, it was a fun departure to attend as my mother's guest at a recent event celebrating the opening of the brand new Ralph Lauren Flagship store at 711 Fifth Avenue. After being greeted at the door with champagne, we made our way into the new space and had a wonderful time exploring each of the floors. With an appreciation of the two styles of mansions in mind, I was genuinely pleased to see the new flagship. 711 is a true mix of both mansions on Madison Avenue, but with a younger vibe added in. I should have expected it -- each of Ralph Lauren's stores are well-suited to the area and the clothing line they carry, and this is the store that will show off the new Polo line for women, as well as play host to a Ralph Lauren coffee shop on the second floor and a Ralph Lauren restaurant, just like in Paris and Chicago.

Women have been wearing Ralph Lauren polo shirts for decades, so it may come as a surprise that the Polo line itself has always been dedicated to menswear. With the launch of a brand new Polo line for women, 711 will be the showcase for the brand, and the stage is set perfectly. The line carries
designs that are very reminiscent of classic pieces, but most are designed as if a cool girl downtown has styled them. Unlike what comes to mind when one thinks of the Polo line for men, I wouldn't call this line basics. I wouldn't want to imply that this store is full of polo shirts as the men's line embodies (although there are plenty on the first floor with the men's clothing). It is also not as collegiate as the Rugby line was, or even edgy in the way Denim and Supply is. This women's Polo line has been called bohemian preppy, which no one can miss in the styling on the mannequins, but the individual pieces are far more interesting than bohemian describes -- many of the pieces are a riff on classic that Ralph Lauren has been playing with in all of the lines I mentioned. Instead of a classic cable knit sweater, one will find a teddybear-soft oversized cable-knit sweater that looks very much borrowed from the boys, but with a more flattering cut. The classic-looking dresses are cut just slim enough to be layered over and under leggings and vests, making them as versatile for dressing up for The Carlyle as they are for dressing down for Joe's Pub.

With the Polo clothing line easily lending itself to both uptown and downtown style, it is only appropriate that the store is situated in midtown, on Fifth Avenue. Even more fitting is that the Polo line is priced between the other Ralph Lauren brands (at $70-$2,000 it is not as expensive as the Black Label or the Collection, but just a bit more expensive than the Lauren line) and that Fifth Avenue itself now holds both high-end and low-end stores.

The physical location aside, the store itself truly embodies the line. Where the women's mansion is cool with its marble floors and grand staircase, 711 is warm with its pale wood floors and two glass elevators that invoke the feel of a converted loft. The predominant colors in the mansion are black, white and silver, while at 711 there isn't a color that's been left out of the mix. The mansion boasts a beautiful staff of sales associates with a refined elegance that makes them all look as though they've walked right off the Ralph Lauren Collection runway. At 711, the beautiful associates are young and fresh, some even undergrads, all with big welcoming smiles and looking as though they stepped out of an iconic Ralph Lauren ad with a horse and some tall grass.

The friendly and warm atmosphere is clearly the vibe the flagship was going for, and it was very much achieved. Looking at the cafe on the second floor, one can almost see the young women clad in chic layers as they chat and sip coffee with leather backpacks at their feet who will add even more warmth and depth to the visual picture of the store. When the Ralph Lauren restaurant opens on the lowest floor, it will add even more lively activity.

711 is a little more relaxed. A little louder. A place to hold up turquoise belts in the mirror, pull out sweaters to try on, and sit down on a couch to flip through a book. Unlike on Madison Avenue, when I saw something I loved on a mannequin at 711, I found myself walking right up to touch the leather, feel the soft wool, or even check the price tag. In short, the new flagship store feels welcoming and homey -- and is a great addition to the Ralph Lauren stores here in New York City.

P.S. - Wanna know the fun reason only Coca-Cola beverages will be served?

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