Ralph Lauren has had a horrible year. Profits plummeted 9.3 per cent in the last quarter, and the share price dropped to a low not seen since 2012.
The problem is one of scale: Ralph Lauren is a big beast, with myriad diffusion lines, accessories, children’s clothes and homeware all part of the brand’s all-American umbrella. One hit hurts the whole, and the results have propelled the company to announce a re-examination of its management structures. They want to wrest back control of the ancillary lines that have operated on a more regional basis, and consolidate once more.
In terms of business the womenswear division has the same centrifugal purpose: it consolidates the brand’s focus and announces its intentions for the next quarter. Ready-to-wear is, after all, the jewel from which all the other Lauren lines are chipped.
The forecast for next season was to play it safe: a palette of cream, fawn and heather woollens; and simple clothes cut in classic Lauren lines: three-quarter-length skirts and cable knits, layered cashmere poncho tops and polo necks, and slim-hipped, wide-legged Annie Hall trousers. The silhouette was svelte and smart.
There were demonstrations of daring: trapper-hats, fur overthrows of indiscernible origin that trailed towards the floor in shaggy rags and lots of sequin embellishments and low-slung, big-buckled belts. But these were a rather nasty distraction. Just as the group has announced the streamlining of its operations, this AW15 collection would have benefited also from a more rigorous management.
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