Jerry Magnin sinks into a Glen-plaid wing chair, wearing his herringbone crow's-foot tweed suit.
The room, $75,000. The suit, somewhat less. Both by Ralph Lauren.
Once a purveyor of simple East Coast prep, Lauren has expanded his upper-crust vision to become this country's unofficial leader of old-money style--creating a rooted, wealthy aura for an unrooted, new-money social set.
Gracious, Anglicized World
His interpretation of a gracious, Anglicized world gained a new West Coast home last month with the opening of the two-story Polo/Ralph Lauren store, at 444 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills.
Its 17,000 square feet are given over to antiques, Persian rugs and endless clothes.
Magnin, who likes to joke that he opened his first Polo store in 1971 because "my fantasy was not to pay retail," is franchise owner of this Lauren-esque manse of a shop, which, in addition to menswear and women's wear and home accessories, has 120 employees bent on sharing what the Lauren people call that certain "taste level and style."
So magnetic is this comfortably worn setting that customers are asking to buy entire bedroom "vignettes," erected to show off Lauren's linen and furnishing ideas. Before the store had been open a week, Magnin said, he had compiled a list of names of those hoping to grab the blue-and-white "porcelain room" intact--which would include an English four-poster Georgian bed, two Biedermeier stools, a Picasso aqua-tint, a David Hockney print and a Miro drawing. Price tag: more than $60,000.
Nearby, in the "Duke and Duchess" suite--a royal his-and-her bedroom arrangement--so many have requested one papier-mache table that, as sales associate Hal Laudeman said: "We could cut it up in pieces."
"There's a buyer for almost anything that's in the store," said Magnin, including, he presumes, the $85,000 alligator-skin wing chair.
But don't dwell on the high end. "One of the things I don't want to do is scare people away from the store, thinking it's all these mega-prices," Magnin said.
Store Has a '30s Look
For the world of Lauren is also made up of $300 blazers, $98 flannel skirts and $35 blouses. While Magnin says he's confident of demand for pricier "prestige products," he's less sure whether customers of more moderately priced Lauren goods will choose to buy them on Rodeo Drive.
As with the first Polo/Ralph Lauren store in New York, the Rodeo Drive shop is a homey clutter of props, gathered throughout Europe by Magnin and the Lauren team. For starters, count 50 Persian rugs and 200 pairs of boots and dozens of heirloom paintings that hint at a clan's history of equestrian passions.
Yet the Rodeo Drive store was designed to look airier, and more resort-like, than the original in New York. With its high ceilings and polished woods, it simulates the style of "Palm Beach or California of the '30s," versus the "London town house" atmosphere of the Madison Avenue store, says Buffy Birrittella, a Lauren vice president and communications director.
Magnin, who says his own tastes have in recent years evolved from starkly modern to more traditional, puts the price of the new store, not counting inventory, "in excess of $10 million. . . . Frankly, Polo doesn't like numbers thrown around."
He's equally circumspect about the Lauren mystique.
"We all have our fantasies," Magnin said. "He (Lauren) has been good at being able to fantasize--and produce things to help people live out their fantasies."