Ralph Lauren Men's Mansion
When was the last time you thought about Ralph Lauren? I know I at least spend most of my time thinking about the shiny new brands that pop-up on my Instagram feed or on a stroll through Soho. Well, I was missing out. Spending time in the Ralph Lauren men's mansion on Madison Avenue is like going back to school in what makes for a great retail experience. If only all school was as enjoyable as drinking an iced tea from a real glass teacup while ensconced in a leather arm chair tucked away in an historic mansion on the Upper East Side.
RALPH LAUREN MEN'S MANSION:
With so much focus on the digital native brands overtaking the retail world, it can be easy to overlook some of the traditional retail stalwarts. To be fully honest, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about Ralph Lauren recently. Mostly I devoted my attention to the new brands I saw on my Instagram feed or discovered online. Now I realize that I was actually the one missing out on an impressive retail experience. When you go to the Ralph Lauren men’s mansion on Madison, you are immediately transported. While the women’s mansion across the street is beautiful but less approachable and the kid’s store feels like any other, the men’s store stands out for its ability to fuse old luxury with an approachable vibe. Does the product itself stand out on its own? About as much as a well made oxford shirt or colorful knit sweater can, but that is hardly the point. The product here is the experience and the experience is impeccable. Next time you need to replace some shirts or buy a new pair of pants, or are looking to up your accessories game with a leather bag or pair of shoes, consider stopping by to purchase them in person. You’ll be surprised how enjoyable the experience is and may even finally understand why brick and mortar retail still exists after all.
Because the product is the experience, the people are essential to the recipe. When we visited the store we were greeted by multiple members of the staff who were both friendly and impeccably dressed. When we explained that we were looking for some new shirts we were immediately shown to the rainbow wall of oxford shirts and then asked if we wanted a beverage. It was sweltering on Madison Avenue so we asked for some iced tea. We had expected a little plastic cup but instead were brought a tray with two glasses, slices of lemon and multiple sugar options. While my companion tried on shirts I sat in a beautiful leather lounge chair sipping iced tea like the queen. How could you walk out empty-handed after being treated this well? Needless to say, we walked out of the store hydrated and with two new oxford shirts in tow.
If we had been given our little glasses of iced tea to sip in a Scandinavian designed, minimalist space of blonde wood and glass, the illusion would no doubt have been broken. Instead, the Ralph Lauren men’s store is in a gorgeous and historic Neo-Renaissance mansion on Madison Avenue. The colors are rich and bright, the wood is dark and the scent is evocative. You’ll probably forget that you are in New York City, or that traditional retail is supposedly dying, or that you honestly could have purchased whatever you came in for without ever leaving your apartment. Yes, it is an illusion, one that might even feel out of place in today’s world the more you think about it. But the illusion is the point, it’s definitional to the Ralph Lauren story and the Ralph Lauren brand.
Sometimes we don’t know what we are missing until it hits us in the face. New retail is exciting, there are new brands popping up every day that promote the values that are important to us. They reach us where we are (social media) and make it easy for us to shop wherever we want (online). But every once in a while it is a relief to slow down, walk into a store and feel utterly transported to another world. While the product might not be anything revolutionary (well, it might have been once but times have changed), next time you need to buy some basics maybe do it with a side of iced tea on a leather arm chair. You won’t regret this little detour from reality, even if it might be slightly less convenient than ordering that new shirt from the app on your phone.
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