The Ralph Lauren brand has always been a part of Alchemy Owner Ace Graham’s life—and now he can say that it’s also a part of his brand’s story, thanks to a recently-launched partnership.
“This is a brand that we grew up on as kids, “Graham said. “My mom would go to garage sales and all kinds of things to get Polo stuff for us. When we went on the military base, we used to make a layaway on Polo. I grew up on Polo. When in doubt, you could always wear Polo.”
Something that he says many people can relate to.
“When you’re talking about Ralph Lauren, that’s the brand of the American dream,” he said. “Everybody in America at some point in their life has had Ralph Lauren on their body. For the legacy of that brand to carry on since 1967 and for us to be able to represent that brand, at its top-tier level, just think about it.”
Alchemy started carrying the brand last month through what’s called a tier-one partnership, which means that customers can find fresh off of the runway styles from Ralph Lauren’s Polo brand in-store without having to go to a larger city.
“In all transparency, it provides credibility for our store,” he said. “It’s a brand that is just as expensive as other brands that we sell, but it’s a brand that you go in as a consumer and have no reservations about the price point. You have not reservations about the quality of the product or the sustainability of the product because it’s been around for forever.”
The partnership has been about six years in the making, according to him. He began reaching out to brand representatives in 2015 and stayed persistent, even after being told several times that Ralph Lauren wasn’t interested in opening new retail accounts at the time.
A chance meeting with a brand rep at a Las Vegas trade show in 2020 turned the tide, Graham said.
Again, a rep told him that they weren’t opening up new accounts, but he explained Alchemy’s brand and bonded with her over speaking Italian.
Encouraged, he kept reaching out to the rep until an auto-reply informed him that she was during the pandemic. Instead, he sent his pitch to the person taking over her accounts.
He finally got a yes in September. Items arrived at the store in January.
“We’ve had an effect over the last three weeks of customers coming in and try on outfits, taking pictures of them in the window and putting them on Facebook,” he said. “Other people are coming out to by the same outfit that they saw on social media. We’ve really noticed people coming in the store and saying, ‘Man, I heard y’all have Ralph Lauren. Where’s the Polo?’”
Working with Ralph Lauren isn’t just about providing the hottest fashion for Graham, it’s also about giving back to the community. The brand has agreed to also partner with Graham’s non-profit, Alchemy Cares, on projects benefitting Birmingham residents.
“We also want to associate ourselves with brands that are going help us in our community, that are going to give us marketing opportunities to the community for the initiatives that we have,” he said. “We have a non-profit, so we want brands to support us on those efforts. So, when it’s time for us to give away 100 pairs of shoes, who’s going to help? When we want to support the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for a project, who’s going to do production for us? Who’s going to donate proceeds to the organization of our choice.”
Partnerships like this not only help further doing good in a community, but it also helps a big brand like Ralph Lauren insert themselves into a community in a meaningful way, according to him.
All in all, the working relationship between the store and the brand is a good look for the city.
“For them to be taking an opportunity to work with a black-owned business, for them to be entrusting us with their product in an iconic city like Birmingham, to us it’s a huge achievement,” Graham said
Woodlawn Business Association is much more than a membership for business owners who open in Woodlawn—it’s a network, a resource, and a big team of community cheerleaders.
Nationally sought-after professional food and travel photographer Stephen DeVries has been growing his business in The Switch since 2016.