Polo Anyone? Ralph Lauren Polo launches snowboarding outerwear program.

With mainstream American catalog-sales companies such as L.L. Bean and Victoria’s Secret both embracing snowboarding, perhaps we should have anticipated this. However, one of America’s apparel icons, Ralph Lauren Polo, now also wants a piece of the snowboarding pie.

Sure it’s upscale, but not too hoity-toity for Ross Powers, Andy Hetzel, and Michele Taggert. These top snowboarders are the first to sign on with Polo Sport’s new collection of RLX technical athletic gear that includes a technical snowboard collection.

The RLX line will launch next spring with apparel, footwear, socks, glasses, and bags for the cross-training, cycling, and outdoor markets. The snowboard gear and ski collections will be shown for Fall 1999 delivery.

Of course, the company will be drawing on its team to help develop the new snowboard collections. “It’s a pretty good group and they’re all enthusiastic about helping launch RLX,” says Jackson Lynch, director of sports communications.

According to the company, the new apparel lines are built around a dedication to providing serious athletes with the highest possible function, fabrication, and fit. The products are developed with input from athletes and using materials from companies like Dupont, W.L. Gore, Malden Mills, and Toray, to name a few. Of course, the company will also be drawing on its name to attract a certain customer base.

“People have asked why we want to be involved with snowboarding, but nobody has asked what can we offer to the snowboarding market?” says Lynch. “Ralph Lauren founded the company around a passion about a specific style and stuck with that until it created a lot of enthusiasm for it. He’s an outdoorsman and enthusiast. A lot of people who work here are active in cycling, running, swimming, and skiing and have a passion for the outdoors.”

“It begins with Ralph looking at things and asking what we can do for the customer who wants quality, style, and aesthetic all rolled into one,” says Lynch. “With his passion, the people working here can add to the whole mix of it and address the market with something new and different.”

The RLX Polo Sport collections will be available at winter sport, cycling, running, cross-training, and outdoor specialty stores around the country. “We’ll have a dedicated sales force for RLX in the field, and we’re going to be at the SIA and Outdoor Retailer shows,” says Lynch. “Our reps will be visiting shops and showing the lines-just like every other brand-showing features and benefits.”

-John Stouffer