Today I would like to write about A certain type of product offered by Ralph Lauren, both in their stores and online, the so called "unique" or "one of a kind" or "antique" or even even your feeling more modern "vintage" and last but not least "retro" items they supply.
Now I'm not sure quite where to begin, but this is a bit of a rant so I shall attempt to start at the beginning of my understanding, that is to say when I first started to see these items in Ralph Lauren.
I first noticed these random items around the Ralph Lauren store in Bond Street pretty much from when it opened, the store, or are they called 'houses' im never quite sure, was very in keeping with most Ralph Lauren Stores, in that they presented a old world establishment kind of image, with big crocodile leather chairs, cashmere throws everywhere, log fires in the corner, portaits of the famous and wealthy etc, essentially attempting to make the customer feel like they have inadvertantly walked into a grand stately home and are being made to feel welcome, with the subconciuos subtext that they can buy everything around them.
As one walked through the main front entrance on Bond Street, on either side were and are cabinets with display cases behind them, these cases contained basically knick knacks and miscallaneous items made from silver, gilt, crystal, exotic leathers and other materials, and were in the categories of homewares such as office stationery holders, crystal ink wells, business card holders, letter holders, and so on and so forth, all these items were second hand, used, vintage whatever epithet you wish to use, but essentially they are all old.
The theme is continued throughout the store, on the first floor there are similar cabinets displaying vintage and antique cufflinks, wallets, rings etc, never been to the ladies floor, but I assume there is more of the same, one clever trick here is they mix the newer products in with the vintage ones to sort of 'age' them too.
These items vary in quality, they have all been restored reasonably well, a few, and I mean very few, have some pedigree, may be old hermes ashtrays, or cartier lighters, perhaps some old tiffany stuff, and a selection of vintage watches, before Ralph Laurens recent watch range these were the only quality watches sold on the premises, including vintage Omega, Rolex, Cartier, Vacheron and Audemars.
Overall however the quality of this stuff was pretty dire, it really is the sort of crap either sold in a thrift store, or very cheaply in an antique store, and in the case of the watches the marques may be good, however I never saw a seriously quality piece.
The prices are astronomical, they sell for example a small crystal inkwell, of no particular note, silver opener, birmingham cast, around 1960's for £450, absolutely ridiculous, and this customer raping continues across all their 'vintage' products.
Now I see they have opened a website section showing choice pieces of tat for even more astronomical prices, it seems that the few small items that I spotted that are good have been hand picked and are being offered to the REALLY stupid people who cant be bothered to visit antique shops for themselves.
You see what is happenning here, is that some bright spark in Ralph Lauren was one day browsing round Grays antique market in Bond Street, or perhaps somewhere in NY, bit anyway, he thinks to himself "we could buy all this crap, polish it and sell it in Ralph Lauren for 10 times the price" and from this was born the 'vintage unique range' like some kind of evolution of 'found' objects, but rather than taking things of no value and putting them on pedastals, they have taken reasonably valuable to low value items and made them 'unique' I assume that following the blinding success of sucking the wallets of idiots who cant be bothered to walk a bit further up bond street and would prefer to carry a Ralph Lauren bag for their crap, the 'Online unique items' were born of the choicest toss.
Thats pretty much all I have to say about that, except that I wish people would stop buying these overly inflated pieces of nonsense.
Just before I go I don't want to sound like I am totally against this as a few of the ones online are ok, but please do take a look at the photos I chose, you see the two flask? The polished one and the not polished one? Well the polished one is a non brand one from Ralph laurens 'unique vintage antique' range the other one is just from an online antiques boutique, still non brand, both a solid sterling silver, neither have any history, guess what? The Ralph Lauren one is $2400, the other one is $650.