Many top designers who enter home textiles tend to present looks that reflect their design focus each season. Not so Ralph Lauren.
Beginning with the debut of the bed and bath line in 1983, Lauren has presented ensembles that reach into a variety of styles and looks—with the broad goal of combining heritage elegance with a modern flair. The process of designing these collections prevents it from getting into a rut with one design focus, according to Stephen Earle, senior vice president of home collection design for Ralph Lauren Home.
Although the sourcing of the textiles line has moved in-house, there will be no changes from a design point of view, Earle said. “The only potential change might be that we might find it easier to ascertain if something new in design can be done,” he said.
Earle said both the designs and the process of designing stem from Lauren’s personality. “Ralph is not a static individual,” he said. “His thoughts keep moving and he looks at each piece in terms of the whole scene, not item by item.”
As Earle described it, the design process is much like what goes into the writing of a screenplay. “Like in a script, there’s a place, a person and a mood,” he said. “Each bed is a movie of many scenes. We (the design team) sit around and talk about characters and plot. We all have to understand the story of each design.” This process is no different from that involved with Lauren’s apparel. “We’re all set designers,” Earle said.
The Ralph Lauren Home design team consists of 40 designers, divided into what Earle called “silos”: textiles, fabric, furniture and tabletop. Lauren himself remains deeply involved with the design of each item. “Not much comes out of the design area that doesn’t have his involvement,” Earle said. “He’ll change a color, move a piece. There’s not one product that he doesn’t bless.”
Whatever look appears on an individual ensemble, the goal behind it is the same. “We strive for aspirational in terms of quality and luxury, but also in terms of the fantasy we are creating through the story process,” Earle said. “Ralph is very attuned to the consumer. He wants the consumer to get what she wants.”–David Gill