Ralph Lauren is betting on a major expansion in China both in the digital and physical space, shortly after a recent meeting between President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in California that may have signaled a slightly warmer era in Sino American relations.
On Monday, Ralph Lauren announced that it is creating limited-edition versions of the Polo ID shoulder bag, developed with Tao Liang, professionally known as Mr. Bags. There will be a black calfskin and a pink suede version of the mini Polo ID, and a black calfskin large-size Polo ID.
“It’s the end of a year now. Many people have worked hard for a whole year and they want to buy something to treat themselves but do not want to stress too much,” Liang said in an interview with WWD.
“That’s why we decided to develop around the Polo ID style. It comes with a simplistic and elegant shape, which is very much in line with the old money trend. It’s also very practical. Both sizes have good capacity, which is good for outings and commuting, and can be matched with different styling. The price point is very reasonable as well for a full leather, well-made bag,” he added. The mini-sized bag is priced at 4,290 renminbi, or $605, and the big one retails at 6,590 renminbi, or $928.
He also noted that pink is a hot color for young Asian customers, while the black and silver combination is considered a timeless and versatile option that can fit into either the old-money narrative or the cool-girl vibe.
A limited run of 118 pink suede versions of the mini Polo ID, alongside the other two styles, will go on sale on Dec. 6 on Mr. Bags’ WeChat Mini-program. The black versions will be then available for purchase from all Ralph Lauren stores in mainland China at a later date.
Chua Shin Hwee, regional chief executive officer at Ralph Lauren, said the handbag, which is a core part of the brand’s womenswear business, has “enormous potential upon brand development in the long term.”
The collaboration with Liang is meant to help the brand build long-lasting connections with local customers in China, especially in the digital space.
“Liang is an expert in luxury handbags and one of the most influential fashion bloggers in China. We believe this collaboration can really elevate Ralph Lauren’s credentials on handbags as well as women’s apparel in terms of expanding its reach among the discerning fashion-conscious audience in China. We would further invest in smart retail, and leverage social media and e-commerce channels to drive our growth. This collaboration is also an innovative attempt for us in this area,” Chua said.
In 2024, Ralph Lauren said it will continue its strategic plan introduced in 2022 — dubbed “Next Great Chapter: Accelerate” — to deliver long-term, sustainable growth and value creation in the Chinese market.
“Emblematic stores will be a significant part of our plan as we continue to elevate the shopping experience and tell the Ralph Lauren story to our customers. It is a combination of global strategy and the understanding of what’s relevant to local customers, providing a unique engagement platform that captures the Ralph Lauren story,” Chua said.
“With this solid foundation, we expect our growth to accelerate and are planning to open more than 30 new stores per year in China over the next couple of years,” Chua added.
The brand operates four flagship stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzhen.
“We wanted to make sure we have a presence in these key cities and radiate throughout the smaller cities; that’s where we started when we mapped out the key cities strategy. These emblematic stores are developed with a digital-first mindset that puts consumers at the center, aiming to deliver an elevated, immersive brand experience that integrates smart retail, digital activations as well as hospitality such as Ralph’s Coffee and Ralph’s Bar,” Chua noted.
The brand’s effort in digital space, such as the collaboration with Liang, meanwhile, is aimed at brand elevation, consumer engagement and acquisition.
Ralph Lauren is available across Tmall, JD and the WeChat Mini-program, and has been embracing local digital tools such as WeChat Work, ShopDog and livestreaming to connect people, inventory and places.
With more than 6 million followers on Weibo and a dedicated fanbase on WeChat, Liang is known for helping brands including Chloé, Burberry, Dunhill, Givenchy, Tod’s and Longchamp to sell out limited-edition bags in China.