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Ralph Lauren Expands Preppy Empire

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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MALL RAT Lauren Ralph Lauren thinks America needs more madras! Just in case, you know, Ralph Lauren Black Label, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lauren, and Rugby haven't satiated your desires for rugby stripes, popped collars, Oxford button downs, and of course, piles and piles of khakis. This time, though, the fashion giant is expanding downmarket. "American Living," a line of clothing and homewares, will hit J.C. Penney shortly, its wares plastered with eagles and American flags instead of the brand's signature polo pony. Naturally, some critics have suggested that by keeping its upscale name off of the more accessible product, the company is hoping to have its cake and eat it too.

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Of course, the ads for American Living, shot by Bruce Weber, are suitably aspirational and the merch's lower prices could appeal to those hit by the nationwide credit crunch. Will it work? We seem to recall that the last time the U.S. was in a major recession, back in the grunge-happy early '90s, everyone put away the Alex Keaton look and dressed like they were homeless, on purpose.

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