And just like that, Rugby has closed up shop today.
The announcement came back in the fall of 2012, when earnings reports for Ralph Lauren stated that the conglomerate was looking to consolidate and streamline the businesses into more focused products. Rugby was one of the casualties of this initiative.
Started back in 2004, Rugby was a young brand that was conceived to directly compete with Abercrombie & Fitch. The wildly successful NYC outfitter proved that youth were looking into preppy clothing but did not necessarily want stolid or stuffy designs. Rugby’s designers kept that in mind, playing off of the success of Ralph Lauren’s Polo brand to create a lineup that was more vibrant and a bit more brash than the classic menswear label. Rugby featured bold patches, large swaths of colors and patterns, and a more athletic collegiate character to their pieces.
The target demographic was university students and their recent graduates, but the higher price tag on many items rivaled some of the mainline Polo prices. It’s not to say that the quality wasn’t there, as many of the earlier suits, blazers, ties, etc. were made in Italy or England. Also, some designs were considered a bit over the top, and that ensured that the Rugby brand never went too mainstream. Additionally, there were exclusive events, such as the Tweed Run, where a collection of limited items were launched.
Global recognition was also a part of Rugby, with stores open in the United Kingdom and in Japan. Those markets also had exclusive designs that were not available in other parts of the world, adding to the allure of the brand. However, the brand was not highly advertised and was known mostly through word of mouth or unofficial endorsements by friends or celebrities.
The Georgetown location in Washington, D.C., even had an accompanying cafe/pub where clientele could enjoy food and drinks while shopping (and partying in the late night hours, good times).
I had always liked the concept behind Rugby, and was lucky enough to acquire some pieces through the years. Like any good brand curation, Rugby made you feel like you were part of a club that was all about having a good time. It wasn’t stuffy, and it wasn’t messy. It was an idea that pushed the concept of collegiate prep to new levels, and we were all better for it.
Below are some Rugby films produced to highlight their collections throughout the years. You can see all of them at Rugby’s YouTube Channel
Rugby, you will be missed.