Welcome to the 2020 (and Beyond) Virtual Holiday Shopping Experience

Oh, the holidays.

I’m going to miss their non-digital commercial pageantry this year, especially the eye-popping displays of high-end retail in a big town like Manhattan, where I will not be spending our annual pre-Christmas get-away weekend eating bomb-ass food and mingling vicariously with hoards of holiday shoppers. 

Now that I look back, the crowded stores and sprawling sidewalks were never a highlight, and as a consolation this year, I’ve spent some time wandering virtually through the iconic (and first) Ralph Lauren flagship at 867 Madison Avenue. 

It’s not the same as the brick & mortar experience (where, when you were done eyeballing stuff you can’t afford, you could pop into Bemelmans Bar up the street in the Carlyle for a well-shaken libation), but Ralph Lauren’s newly launched virtual shop is a lot more than just an online retailer – it’s a novel way to experience the best of in-person shopping without all the headaches that come along.

The setup is simple: you click into the baronial, historic Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo House – the springboard for the RL brand and its inimitable style of preppy Americana – and follow the guided arrows to browse (feeling  like a VIP for whom they’ve shut down the place to accommodate). Once you’ve spotted a contender among the goods on offer, hover your cursor over the item of interest to see its essential details. As you browse, you can seamlessly add items to your “favorites” list for safekeeping, or, with a few clicks, buy your finds on the spot.

What’s so cool about this new retail dimension is that by creating online replicas where customers can virtually walk around, they’ve simulated the breadth and design of the different global Ralph Lauren flagship locations  — from the the kayaks on the ceiling to the lighted fireplaces to the rich wood paneling.

So stay home, not just because you have to – which you do – but so you can enjoy exploring a posh retail environment all by yourself, eating cold leftovers in a shabby  t-shirt from the comfort of your own non-plaid sofa, while you browse inspiration-sparking displays, peruse carefully curated sections, and maybe even spot that perfect gift on an elegantly-styled mannequin or artfully arranged shelf. 

Ralph might find what you’re wearing or the color of your walls a bit tacky, but he’s still glad you popped in to see him.

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