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OK, so the first photo above might be a little misleading. Ralph Lauren did indeed overhaul his flagship store in Madison Avenue's century-old Rhinelander Mansion, but he didn't turn the entire thing into a futuristic white-walled wonderland. Only the new RLX Ralph Lauren room on the top floor got the neon-sporty treatment, but it's a good place to begin because it demonstrates just how committed Lauren's team is to designing rooms that match the merchandise. To play up the RLX line's automotive feel, they created a room inspired by the Porsche museum in Germany. To bring out the country in the RRL section, they came up with a space that (as Ralph Lauren honcho Charles Fagan explained at today's preview) literally "smells like a shop in Telluride." Each room, in other words, really goes for it.
Up until recently, the Rhinelander Mansion housed menswear, womenswear, and furnishings, but now it's dedicated entirely to outfitting guys. (Women's and housewares are moving across the street to a space that should open in October.) Floors one and two are currently open to the public after receiving light touch-ups, but the real changes took place on the third and fourth floors, which won't be available to customers until later this week.
Now that the whole building is a boy's club, there's enough room to devote whole floors to different styles. The fourth floor, which houses RLX and Ralph Lauren Black Label, is modern and macho, with woven-leather rugs and leather-wrapped shelves complementing the leather moto jackets. One room is dominated by the biggest motorcycle we've ever seen; another houses turntables that won't skip even in an earthquake.
Down a flight of stairs, the Ralph Lauren tough guy morphs into a cowboy before turning into the genteel yachtsman we all know him to be. The RRL section, which is hung with riding blankets and floored with reclaimed wood, really does smell like a general store somewhere out west. Highlights there include handmade boots, hand-painted ties, and an exposed brick wall that's original to the building. Head out into the Polo Ralph Lauren area and you'll find portraits of stately college-president types and classic antiques. Even if all you want is a polo shirt, they've got you covered: Customers can pick monograms and logo colors via a touch-screen or a special iPad, and within 20 minutes their shirts will be delivered to the store.
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