50th Anniversary | 2018 | RL Magazine | Ralph Lauren




How Ralph Lauren transformed Bethesda Terrace into a dazzling showcase for a half-century of image making

For half a century, Ralph Lauren has famously drawn inspiration from all over the world—from refined country estates in England to the iconography of the Great Plains and the American West. And yet, no place has sustained and nourished his creative spirit quite like his hometown of New York City.

It’s fitting, then, that Mr. Lauren chose to celebrate a half-century of iconic design in the heart of the city, with 50 Years of Reflection, a one-of-a-kind immersive experience accompanying his 50th Anniversary Show, which took place in Central Park on September 7. And, true to the city’s DNA, he did so by blending a reverence for the past with an excitement for the future.

This was a project several months in the making, with inspiration ranging far and wide, from the kinetic, immersive directorial style of Steven Spielberg to Stanley Kubrick’s 50-year-old masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey to a recent Gustav Klimt exhibition in which the artist’s works were projected onto the walls of a cave in France, evoking prehistoric cave paintings. Mr. Lauren and his team also considered several potential locations—for the show and the installation—and ultimately landed on a venue close to home: the iconic Bethesda Terrace in Central Park.

50th Anniversary
Central Park served as the setting for 50 Years of Reflection—an immersive digital installation of LED sculptures and holographic projections celebrating Ralph Lauren’s 50th Anniversary Collection

Once the concept and location were settled, a team of graphic designers, sound designers, lighting designers, production artists, and others went to work to create an immersive experience that looked to the past while summoning the future. The presentation dove into the brand’s story through a series of monolithic LED sculptures and holographic projections, including mini-movies narrated by Mr. Lauren himself, on the park’s storied Bethesda Terrace. (It’s worth noting here that the event was also a benefit for the Central Park Conservancy, which has helped preserve and protect the park for several decades, including a fairly drastic renovation of Bethesda Terrace that began in the 1980s.)

And rather than mimicking a cave, the exhibition used mirrored boxes to take full advantage of the terrace’s natural expansiveness. Two T-shaped chambers transported guests into the cinematic World of Ralph Lauren. Iconic imagery from past ad campaigns was displayed throughout, and at the end of each corridor, dual holographic projections told the story of the brand through videos narrated by Mr. Lauren. Each wall focused on a loose subject (such as “America”), and, perhaps most touchingly, included home movies of the Lauren family. In one shot, Ralph and Ricky were seen riding horses at the Double RL Ranch in Colorado, framed by breathtaking vistas. In another, Mr. Lauren was silhouetted by the ranch house’s door, like John Wayne at the end of The Searchers. In yet another video, Ralph raced up an East Hampton beach in his beloved white 1976 Jeep CJ-5 . Later, he can be seen dancing with his daughter, Dylan, on the sand.

50th Anniversary
Models in iconic looks from past runway shows were displayed on mirrored monolithic installations


Surrounding the mirrored boxes, monoliths—like the ones from 2001—displayed snippets from past shows. Models with whom we’re still on a first-name basis—Linda, Naomi, and so on—sauntered down runways in iconic looks that remain as relevant today as when they first debuted. Indeed, thanks to the cutting-edge presentation, the shows of yesteryear felt as though they were taking place right in front of our guests.

Of course, those clothes weren’t the only ones on display that night. The evening included a show of new collections, and for the first time, designs from across the Ralph Lauren universe were presented in one place: Purple Label, Collection, Double RL, and, of course, the latest from Polo. Taken together, it was a remarkable statement of purpose from a man whose eyes, as ever, remain trained on the future.

PAUL L. UNDERWOOD is the former executive editor of RalphLauren.com. He is based in Austin, Texas, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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