JANUARY LONG READ: UNLIMITED LOVE FOR RALPH LAUREN'S RRL LABEL
Double RL (or RRL abbreviated) is the one brand I cannot be objective about. Whether RRL would sell at Tenue de Nîmes or not, the brand is so connected to the Tenue de Nîmes principles we will always take great care of it. We also do because we know that Mr. Ralph Lauren, who recently announced he puts in a new CEO to lead his company, is personally involved in selecting shops that may tell this personal part of his legacy.
The brand was founded in 1993 but the spirit of the brand dates back to the 1980s when Ralph Lauren created his Sante Fe collection, inspired by the western movies he had watched almost obsessively during his upbringing. The Sante Fe collection was littered with Native American blankets, western shirts, bandanas, denim silver buckled belts and turquoise highlights. It was during the 80s too that Ralph Lauren acquired his RRL ranch in Ridgway, Colorado which is best described as a filmic reflection of the rugged spirit of the untamed American West.
Throughout the eighties and nineties the Polo Country label was a continuation of the Sante Fe collection. The label was one of the most interesting designs in the company’s history with jackets with Native American portraits head hand painted on the back, indigo pea coats, sweaters in Aztec prints and denim fire jackets. Looking back at the concept and the look and feel of the Polo Country brand, it was a clear predecessor of the Double RL brand today.
Ralph Lauren has always been fascinated by ‘real clothes’. Growing up in a poor neighbourhood of New York City he was surrounded by hardware and army stores. Those shops offered real mercantile goods. It is where his true appreciation for well-made goods started and where he developed two guiding principles.
“I have always loved clothes that were designed for a purpose – work cloths, uniforms and the utility fabrics they were made of. They have an integrity to them.”
It is Ralph Lauren’s conviction that clothes made for a purpose and function are timeless and iconic and through this function they get better with age. Take for instance a pair of jeans or a classic car.
Those two aspects explain why RRL is a collection that represents the sophistication and spirit of the American worker. The brand is about iconic building blocks of men’s style. Most of the inspiration comes from military or sportswear heritage. The brand is not about proclaiming what the latest fashion is, they are in this game for the long haul. RRL is about those pieces that will stay cool forever. Over the years the brand specialized in those pieces you would wish to find in a vintage store. Their true appreciation for product (as opposed to fast fashion) sometimes feels like an addiction.
“When I was young…I would go to Army-Navy Surplus stores and search for safari jackets and military clothes. They were rugged. They were made for real life and work, and that’s what I loved."
RRL only works with the finest materials available and uses manufacturing techniques as well as construction details that are extremely rare today. Authentic American selvage denim and leather shoes form the United States, indigo fabrics from Japan, suits and leather jackets from Italy - all made at small, privately owned factories around the world. On top of these iconic styles seasonal vintage inspired collections of clothing have been added, along with a full collection of accessories, including handmade belts, bags, and leather goods. Both the brand and the collection are expanded slowly. You could almost say: the longer they take, the longer their products last. Consider RRL an Oak tree: it grows slowly but grows strong and stable.
RRL is sold through no more than a handful of independent retailers around the world, including Tenue de Nîmes. On top of that the brand has private stores in New York, Los Angeles and London. The stores carry a broad assortment of products, vintage, home furnishings, and dried goods. Ralph Lauren was the first contemporary rebel who presented vintage next to new items in his stores.
"I love things that are worn. The patina is evidence of a history of work, and a kind of honesty, which to me is very American."
RRL retail is best described as a ‘discovery shop’ and above all a place where Ralph Lauren feels comfortable. The same can be said of the RRL crew members. Every single one of them was a customer first. The Double RL brand is a label that appeals to all of them: “You just have to care for this brand!”