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Why Ralph Lauren Is Not Showing at New York Fashion Week

High-wattage runway shows appear to be paying off for the brand, but it is skipping the official season.
Ralph Lauren's 50th anniversary show in 2018 | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Chantal Fernandez

NEW YORK, United States — Fashion week is not complete without a show from Ralph Lauren, who has presented his womenswear collections here since the early 1970s, using high-gloss fashion events to make his accessible collections more appealing. But this season, the figurehead of American fashion is missing from the official runway schedule, planning instead to stage a show in April.

Ralph Lauren has switched up its runway strategy in recent years as sales declined and as fashion shows became consumer-facing marketing opportunities through social media and press coverage.

In September 2016, the label shifted to showing in-season collections on the runway, a strategy that continued after other labels, like Tom Ford and Burberry, reverted back to showing one season ahead. But in April, Ralph Lauren will show its autumn/winter 2020 collection.

To mark that 2016 shift, the brand started pouring more money into theatrical runway presentations, with the first taking place on the street outside Ralph Lauren's Madison Avenue stores. Since then, subsequent shows have taken over Central Park (for the celebrity-filled brand's 50th-anniversary event), recreated a former Ralph Lauren coffee shop and staged a jazz nightclub performance.

These high-wattage events appear to be paying off for Ralph Lauren, which has streamlined and restructured the business over the last decade as it tries to adapt to changes in the way people shop and regard its portfolio of brands.

In the last three months of 2019, the company outperformed analyst estimates with a revenue increase of 1 percent to $1.8 billion, with an income increase of 16 percent.

In the prior quarter, which included the most recent Autumn 2019 runway show, marketing expenses decreased 10 percent year-over-year, in comparison to the budget for the large-scale 50th-anniversary show held in September 2018. That quarter, the company increased its marketing spend 30 percent year-over-year.

Ralph Lauren Chief Executive Patrice Louvet told analysts in November 2019 that the company's recent increased investment in performance marketing online would not come at the expense of "brand-building activities" like the runway shows or partnerships with Wimbledon. "But it's really about being more efficient in the way we spend our money," he said.

That increased focus on efficiency may have led the brand to pass up New York Fashion Week, especially during a season when many of its celebrity guests may be in Los Angeles for the Oscars.

“Developing unique experiential shows continues to be a primary focus for the brand to engage consumers, maintain a sense of freshness and add an element of surprise,” said a representative for Ralph Lauren in a statement.

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