Ralph Lauren Introduces The RL 888 Handbag Collection, Embracing the Digital and Physical Worlds

Ralph Lauren has high expectations for his new handbag collection, called The RL 888, which bears all the designer’s style signatures.

Comprised of a crossbody, top handle and mini crossbody chain, each bag is crafted by artisans in Florence. The bags have defined angles and dramatic curvature inspired by New York City’s architecture. Even the collection’s name is a nod to the designer’s roots in Manhattan — 888 Madison Avenue is the address of Lauren’s women’s flagship.

The RL 888 collection is being offered in an assortment of exotic fabrications, such as alligator, and box calf leathers, which add a smooth texture and firm construction. Each piece is cut by hand. The bags also have a sleek RL logo, offered in palladium, brass or champagne finishes, which serve as a closure featuring a push lock.

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The RL 888 bag.

The RL 888 bag.

Courtesy shot.

“The RL 888 stands as a testament to timeless artistry, with each bag being made by hand and individually constructed by skilled artisans. I have chosen to personalize the bag with my own initials — RL — like a three-dimensional piece of art,” Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren Corp., said on Friday.

Lauren said the handbags were designed with timelessness in mind.

“When I was a young man, I was drawn to clothing and objects that were designed for a purpose. It was about character and authenticity — things that last with a timelessness that never goes out of style. A woman’s handbag is like that — both an object of beauty and utility, a trusted companion storing the essentials she carries with her every day. And although she may change it from day to day or day to night, there is one that she chooses that is most her own, that complements her every mood,” Lauren said.

In explaining how he anticipates his customer will wear the RL 888 and for what occasions, the designer said, “I’m excited about The RL 888 because it is not only beautifully crafted, and signed with my initials, but I believe it will enhance the personal style of the woman I design for. I’ve always believed that women are independent — bold and romantic, modern and timeless — particularly when it comes to the way she dresses. Her personal style is a sign of confidence. She will make the RL 888 handbag part of her individuality wearing it with a sexy black dress or a rugged pair of jeans as she writes her own story, wherever she lives.”

The bags start at $1,800 retail and go as high as $15,000.

For the past several years, the company has been on a quest to elevate its image and prices. Collection is its most elevated women’s proposition, and handbags contribute to this elevated positioning. In fact, handbags continue to be a high potential category of growth for the Ralph Lauren brand.

Overall, Lauren raised its average unit retail prices 15 percent across its direct-to-consumer network, on top of an 8 percent gain a year ago, as reported earlier this month when the company released first-quarter results. The higher-end focus and strength in Europe and Asia helped the company blunt the impact of weakness in the U.S., its home market, and to top estimates for the first quarter.

As reported, for the first quarter ended July 1, Lauren’s net income rose 7 percent to $131.1 million from $123.4 million a year earlier. Revenues for the three months inched up to $1.5 billion from $1.49 billion a year earlier, an increase of 1 percent in constant currencies that was led by Europe and Asia. 

“If you step back big time, we really reset the foundations of our brand,” said Patrice Louvet, president and chief executive officer, earlier this month in a WWD interview. “This isn’t just one quarter or two, this is years of work to really deliberately elevate every facet of the consumer experience. We remain on offense.”

Fei Fei Sun wearing the RL 888 bag.

Fei Fei Sun wearing The RL 888 bag.

Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

To support the handbag launch, Lauren has created an ad campaign highlighting the juxtaposition of the sleek, modern and Deco-inspired handbag against an otherworldly, rough and leathered landscape.

Discussing the thought process behind the campaign, Lauren said, “I am inspired by the beauty of the natural world — a land of contradictions where sky and rugged terrain convene. It is the perfect environment to express the unchanging beauty of The RL 888 and the independent spirit and personal style of the woman that writes her own story.…She is bold and romantic, modern yet timeless. Like the bag she carries — The RL 888.”

Featured in the campaign are 30-year-old German model Anna Ewers and 34-year-old Chinese model Fei Fei Sun. The campaign tells the story of a woman and her most personal accessory, sharing its romance not only through photography but through a film titled “Outside of Time,” directed by Diana Kunst and shot by Robert Elswit.

Set against a golden landscape of fields, shadow peaks and rustic wooden fences, the two women roam “outside of time,” becoming different characters dressed in a pared-down tank, weathered jeans, cowboy hat and boots, or a simple black dress, bringing to life their personal style via The RL 888 handbag.

Launching this month, The RL 888 campaign will be featured across global print and digital outlets, as well as on the Ralph Lauren digital platforms.

The 888 House, a conceptual digital expression created using Computer Generated Imagery.

Embracing the interplay between the digital and physical worlds, Lauren will introduce The 888 House — a conceptual digital expression created using state-of-the-art computer generated imagery technology that invites consumers to immerse themselves and shop the the world of Ralph Lauren from their homes.

This is the first time that Lauren has used CGI to create an immersive digital experience. But the company, which has long been at the forefront of experimenting with digital technology in the fashion world, previously used CGI in video content, digital projections on its store fronts, and at the 4D Central Park fashion show in September 2014 that projected sky high images of models walking on water wearing the designer’s collection.

The brand continues to put the consumer at the center of everything it does, and looks to re-engage with existing customers while also attracting both new full-price and younger consumers to their business. There’s no question a large population of these younger consumers are engaging with digital-first and virtual experiences, and Lauren looks to connect with them in the places they gravitate to the most.

The 888 House uses CGI technology to create the World of Ralph Lauren.

A look at The 888 House, featuring The RL 888 handbags and fashion looks.

courtesy of Ralph Lauren

Standing within a virtual desert landscape, The 888 House mirrors the “RL” logo in a surreal fusion of fantasy and reality. Using 3D modeling, dynamic lighting and gravity-defying physics, The 888 House is an immersive and interactive shopping experience.

Upon virtually entering the space, consumers are able to wander through the various rooms and discover shoppable Ralph Lauren Collection Icons, featuring mannequins in various looks ranging from trousers and gowns to denim and suede jackets, and The RL 888 Handbag, prominently positioned throughout the space. On one wall is Lauren’s famous quote, “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams,” and other walls feature various imagery. Within The 888 House, Lauren’s physical garments and handbags are mixed with the latest in modern technology. Consumers are able to select any product and shop without exiting the experience.

The 888 House featuring Lauren apparel and The RL 888 bag.

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