Ralph Lauren made fashion news Thursday at New York Fashion Week by launching the first Polo women's collection on the runway, showing 25 looks before his high-end Collection pieces.
He told the industry publication Women's Wear Daily that he was launching the more rugged and sporty women's collection to capitalize on the global popularity of the Polo brand name, which until now has only encompassed men's wear.
The pieces were more along the lines of what you'd see from a contemporary brand, with prices ($89 to $998) to match. And many of the styles were reminiscent of vintage Ralph Lauren pieces, which have been so popular on the secondary market, Lauren started selling them himself on his website.
There were Aztec patterned sweaters and knapsacks, tweed blazers and chiffon floral skirts, leather flight jackets and Fair Isle sweater vests, conch belts and haute hiking boots not unlike his U.S. Olympic Team opening ceremony uniforms seen in Sochi on Feb. 7. Lauren also showed a chunky, shawl-collar cardigan in a toned-down patchwork design that was similar to the controversial Team U.S.A. cardigans.
More dressed-up were short, pleated leather skirts, worn with neon-colored parkas, leggings and black patent Mary Jane shoes.
As Lauren plots the growth of his brand into the future, the launch would seem a strategic move aimed at bringing in a younger customer. But it will be interesting to see how Polo women's is differentiated from the Lauren by Ralph Lauren department store brand and the factory outlet store collection, both of which have featured similar, heritage-inspired styles in the past.
Beginning this fall, Polo women's will be sold at a new Polo flagship store being built on 5th Avenue and 55th Street in Manhattan, where there will also be a restaurant concept. The line also will be available in freestanding Ralph Lauren stores, on RalphLauren.com and in select department stores around the globe.
After the kids came out in Polo, it was the moms' turn to model the Ralph Lauren Collection. Well that's not really what happened, but the contrast of young and old between the two collections was striking. For Collection, Lauren worked in a powdery pastel palette, showing layers of loungey cashmere (turtlenecks and jogging pants) mixed with dressier pieces, such as a tailored, smoke gray wool jumpsuit, chiffon skirts with delicate pearl embroidery and sculpted satin evening dresses accessorized with a lot of diamonds.
One of the evening looks included a dramatic cape, lest anyone forget Lauren's moment in the sun dressing Lupita Nyong'o in a similar style at this year's Golden Globes.
There was an icy quality to the Collection, and it left me cold. But Polo women's I could definitely warm up to.