How Ralph Lauren Paved The Way For Designer Eateries

Fashion-backed restaurants did not have the easiest of paths beginning in the mid-1990s, but that hasn't deterred logo-clad eateries from popping up around the world nearly 30 years on. In 1994, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Elle Macpherson attended the opening of Fashion Café in New York (via W Magazine). With menus consisting of bad burgers, fried fish, Hawaiian pizza, and more named after the biggest supermodels of the time, it did not take long for the restaurant's reputation to flop. But this failure to launch was a mere introduction to luxury designer restaurants and cafés. But just a few years later, the intersection of fashion and food had taken on a new identity with new designers behind individual concepts.

According to Fashion Network, Giorgio Armani was one of the first fashion houses to launch a restaurant in 1998. Ralph Lauren closely followed in 1999 by opening RL, an 86-seat restaurant adjacent to a sprawling Chicago store (via Los Angeles Times). Just five years later, in 2004, Chanel joined the trend with Beige, located in Tokyo, according to Vogue Business.

Though Ralph Lauren was not the first to create a designer eatery, it was one of the few fashion houses that turned a negative association between fashion and food into a positive one early on.

Ralph Lauren changed the popular opinion

By the time Ralph Lauren had opened its third restaurant, the designer himself had given an interview explaining the concept and his inspiration behind it. In his interview, Lauren said he got into the restaurant business because "creating a restaurant was a natural extension of the worlds" that he dreams up and builds through his fashion line. He went on to point out that the label was far more than clothes by now, too. Ralph Lauren is also a brand for the home. "Now I've added the food, even the coffee, to make life fuller and more vibrant. Everything I do is inspired by living," Lauren added.

Today there are five existing Ralph Lauren restaurant concepts that span the globe, but the designer is hardly alone in the space. Apart from Lauren's early contemporaries in the industry, designers continue to grow their presence in the food scene every year, it seems. According to Vogue Business, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and others, such as Bergdorf Goodman, all opened new restaurants in 2020. Boss is the latest to join the trend in 2022, with its first café having just opened in Rome (via Fashion Network).

Though fashion did not initially pique the public's appetite, Ralph Lauren's success with eateries at flagship stores of the 1990s all the way to runway shows built around dinner parties in 2020, the fashion house undoubtedly held a key role in popularizing the designer food concept (via W Magazine).