Will Ralph Lauren let customers dye their own clothes?

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Customers in Ralph Lauren flagship stores may soon be able to dye their own polo shirts in a colour of their choice. Thus, the fashion brand is working on more sustainable production while also offering its consumers a personalised experience.


Just white polos?

Deciding on the colours of your new clothes yourself and dyeing them in-store, that's what Ralph Lauren is experimenting with, in collaboration with chemical giant Dow. On a sustainability event of CNBC, the ESG Impact Summit, Dow CEO Jim Fitterling said that Ralph Lauren's New York flagship stores will have the technology to let consumers dye polo shirts on the spot available next year.


It would mean less waste and less overproduction for the fashion retailer, and for the consumer, a unique, personalised experience. If only white polo shirts would have to leave the factories and only the ones the consumer actually wants would be dyed, that would be a considerable saving - both financially and for the environment.


Dyeing without wastewater

Dyeing cotton is typically a toxic and polluting process, but Dow is working on new techniques that use up to 90 per cent fewer chemicals, 50 per cent less energy and 50 per cent less water. By 2025, Ralph Lauren wants to use this technology for more than 80 per cent of its regular cotton products.


While the initial aim is to dye earlier in the supply chain and jointly develop the world's first scalable cotton dyeing system without wastewater, in-store dyeing could be the ultimate endpoint.


Co-creating with customers

It could also be a revolution for the consumer: a customer could choose a colour from a palette or bring in a colour they spotted somewhere. This personalised experience allows the consumer to co-create with the brand and creates an emotional bond. The only question is how fast the dyeing will be done: CNBC estimates one or two days, with a minimum of one hour. So it won't be easy to see the dyeing process happening right in front of your eyes.


Ralph Lauren simultaneously announced solid quarterly results. In the past second quarter, sales rose by 26 per cent to 1.5 billion dollars (about 1.3 billion euros). European growth reached 38 per cent, mainly thanks to a revival of physical stores. Net profit amounted to 193 million dollars (around 166 million euros).