FASHION & BEAUTY
Ralph Lauren, Fashion Mogul Turned Restauranteur
Ralph Lauren's Paris restaurant, Ralph's, is a classic American dinner and RL in Chicago is a fashion eatery oasis in the middle of windy Chicago, but nothing compares to the designer's newest NYC restaurant. Lauren's third restaurant includes all the ingredients that make his style so quintessentially American with a touch of a top-class private members clubs.
Henry Koehler’s polo match inspired mural embraces the walls (397 horse paintings), with country-club style leather accents and luxuriously hand-crafted interiors. It's an ode to the preppy American, the WildWest and the stylish sporty Lauren best represents in his collections. The waiting staff is beautifully outfitted with custom RL grey flannel trousers, leather wingtips and silk rep ties.
Lauren said: “I never thought that I would become designer, nor did I think I would be a restaurateur, but when the opportunities presented themselves, i.e. a space in Chicago, a beautiful courtyard and stable in Paris and now the space on 55th Street that was once the home of Le Pavillon, it seemed the perfect way to go.” (Le Pavilion belonged to Henri Soule’s, the Restaurateur that defined the US taste in haute and Gallic throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s).
The traditional New England-style interior features a brass-topped bar, parquet flooring and tan leather banquettes and is inspired by old-school New York dining establishments. Guests can enjoy cocktails and snacks at the bar or cozy up next to the polo saddles by an open fireplace. Downstairs, the main dining room is adorned with equestrian art and a wood paneled ceiling, while there is also a private dining room for up to 14 people. The clock room is particularly avant-garde with a sparkling incarnation of a tack room, complete with polo mallets and bridles.
Lauren said: “ I am drawn to the kind of food that people truly enjoy, vibrant food that people want to return time and again. I have always designed into worlds that were inspired by the way we live. Food and sharing a meal with family and friends is so much a part of that. Creating a restaurant in NY as an extension of those worlds totally natural.“
Q: When you established your brand in 1968, why did you call it Polo?
“I love sports, and I couldn’t call it baseball or basketball. Somewhere along the line, I was following some horses, and I remembered [Porfirio] Rubirosa who was a flamboyant guy in the period and it was a really elegant sport. It was a like sport for kings. When I came out with the name, everyone said, “What is that? Marco Polo?” No one in America knew what polo was.”
Q: Over the years you have expanded your brands to Polo by Ralph Lauren, Ralph Lauren Collection, Purple Label, Black Label, Blue Label, RRL, RLX, Childrenswear, Denim & Supply, Chaps and Club Monaco. You also operate in three-business segments, wholesale, retail and licensing and now you also run three international restaurants. Did you envision all this when you started selling ties at the age of 26?
“ I didn't have a vision as in: This is where I'm going. I had a vision as in, "This is what I love to do." The ties, as simple as they were, looked very different from other ties. They were wide and unusual. I never said to myself, "I'm going to be the greatest." I just wanted to do my own thing. I'd worked for a tie company, and I said, "Can we do this kind of tie? I think we could sell them in New York." This older guy who ran the company said, "No, the world will not buy your merchandise. That was a big statement to say to a 26-year-old kid. The guy laughed at the idea of doing your own thing.I left there and started out of a drawer in the Empire State Building. I used to go out and find rags and make them into ties, and then I'd carry them to stores and sell them. People started saying, "More, we want more." That was so exciting for me. A guy from Neiman Marcus came to my office one day and said, "Let me look at your ties. I've been seeing them around." Then he said, "Would you send these to the main buyer?" At the time, I wasn't big on flying, I had little kids, and I wasn't that experienced in jetting all over the place. But I got my little rags together, got on a plane, and flew there, because I knew the buyer wouldn't understand my ties unless I explained them to him in person. I came home with an order for 100 dozen! That was my first big success. I thought, "I can do this, I'm in business." After that I wanted to sell to Bloomingdale's, which was the kingpin in New York. When I finally had the chance to show the buyer the ties, he said, "Ralph, I like the patterns, but you got to make them a quarter of an inch narrower. And I want you to take your name off and put on “Sutton East" that was their private label. I said to the guy, "Gary, I'm dying to sell to Bloomingdale's, but I'm closing my bag now and going home because I can't take my name off, and I can't make the tie a quarter of an inch narrower. With time, this decision was proven successful as I built a $10bn billion business with a tie.
But the question I'm still asking myself every day is: "What else can I do? How much further can I go? Could I build a media business? Do I have anything else to say? It is important for me to emphasis I do not peruse this for financial reason but due to excitement and passion. Whenever I've done anything, I've had something to say about what I believe in. And that's exactly why I created the Polo Bar in NYC. I get great pleasure in making my own statement, and in fact this this is my greatest joy in life.”
Booking is essential. The Polo Bar , 212-2078562