Fashion Designer Ralph Lauren has become the epitome of classic fashion. Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifschitz on October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive. “The first image-maker”, according to New York magazine, Lauren is one of the fashion industry’s biggest hitters. But Lauren studied business science and served his time in the army before breaking into fashion. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, by his parents who had emigrated from Belarus.
He grew up in a working class neighborhood with his three brothers, mother and father (a house painter). While they were by no means poor, Ralph knew the value of a dollar from an early age and was blessed with a steadfast determination to make money and be successful. By his early teens, he was working after school jobs so that he could save up to buy expensive suits. Although he knew he could find his clothes at a less expensive price, he made it a point to look stylish in his expensive threads — and he has succeeded at looking cool in his attire since the age of 12.
His love of smart dress continued to grow, one would think that Lauren attended fashion design school, but he actually studied business at the City University of New York, in Manhattan. Student by night, Lauren would work by day at two glove companies as a salesman. After two years, Lauren decided to leave the program, between school and his career move into the fashion industry, Lauren served in the United States Army from 1962-1964, and married Ricky Low-Beer after his army days. Lauren then went back to focusing on men’s fashion, working at the time manufacturer A. Rivetz & Co. , Lauren ventured into design for the first time, creating a tie that was wider that the ones currently on the market. In 1967, Ralph Lauren found a financial backer and launched his own neckwear boutique, with no formal design training, where he sold his own wide tie designs along with other brands. He named his tie collection Polo, because of the power, style and intrigue that the brand has always been associated with. (www. informat. com) “Wearing a Ralph Lauren tie in those days was like belonging to a fraternity. ” (Ralph Lauren The Man behind the Mystique p. 1)
And so began the launch of his fashion empire, after he opened his first ever tie shop, Next came menswear and, in 1971, Lauren introduced his women’s label. The Polo brand known today as the preppy English-tweed look it conveys did not get to be a million dollar empire because Lauren was lucky, nor because Lauren had an immaculate sense of style. Lauren not only had an innovative mind, but he also knew that packaging and presentation were of utmost importance–something he didn’t need to learn while studying for his business degree.
What makes Ralph Lauren’s company almost unique is that it is vertically integrated. ” (Ralph Lauren The Man Behind the Mystique p. 5) In the late 60’s, while Lauren was trying to develop his line of wide ties, Bloomingdale’s insisted Lauren remove his name from the ties’ label, and make his ties narrower. Not giving into the retail giant Bloomingdale’s, Lauren stuck to his guns and refused to sell to the department store under such circumstances. Suffice it to say, the retailer came back crawling to Lauren and his ties under his terms, after having seen the brand’s success.
The rest as they say is history. The Ralph Lauren brand catapulted to success in the 80s, starting with his men’s collection that introduced the iconic power suit to the market. Although many other fashion houses were doing power suits at the time, people couldn’t get enough of the Polo image – wealth, sophistication and class. His clothing was made of the highest quality of materials, boasted precision tailoring, and had a timeless look that was unique to the Polo brand. Casual wear was also a big seller for the RL brand, epitomizing the preppy chic look that was popular in the 80s.
The brand went on to launch women’s wear and Ralph Lauren home – bed sheets, towels and furniture all with the classic American style that the Polo/Ralph Lauren brand was known for. “The fall 1987 product list of the Ralph Lauren Home Collection alone numbered 2,200 pieces. ” (Ralph Lauren The Man Behind the Mystique p. 4) It is Lauren’s innovativeness, among many other traits of the model businessman that has made him the founder, designer and chairman of a $900 million company. Not only was he the first fashion designer to have his own store, but he was the first to sell the whole lifestyle image that consumers flock to worldwide.
His line of clothing and home collection has the taste and snobbism–minus the flashiness–that make the Ralph Lauren/Polo brand timeless. Lauren sells much more than clothes and home furnishings; he sells a lifestyle image of sophistication, class and taste. His keen business sense, ability to stand by his product at all costs and ability to prevail despite several business failures are what make him a man whose net worth is $1 billion. A man whose car collection ranges from a 1929 Bentley and a 1937 Alfa Romeo, to a 1938 Bugatti and a 1962 Ferrari, a an who owns a ranch in Colorado, homes in Jamaica and Long Island, an estate in Bedford, New York to add to his Fifth Avenue Manhattan address. A man who offers everyone the opportunity to look as good as he does, simply by purchasing his products. (www. informat. com) Lauren’s fashion empire, which floated on the US stock market in 1997, now includes such brands as Polo Ralph Lauren, Polo Sport and the Ralph Lauren Collection. In 1999, the silver-haired designer broke into the “entertainment” business, too, with a walk-on part on TV sitcom Friends.
He followed this up, at the beginning of the new millennium, by signing a landmark 30-year deal with NBC and two NBC affiliates to sell his designer “lifestyle” on the Internet, on TV and in print. “We don’t only sell clothes,” he said at the time, “we are selling a dream and a vision. ” Lauren is married to Ricky and home is in Bedford, Connecticut. (www. allthingspoloralphlauren. blogspot. com) Ralph and his wife, Ricky, have two sons and a daughter: Andrew, David, and Dylan. David is an executive at Polo Ralph Lauren. Dylan owns and operates an upscale candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, at 59th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.
Ricky appeared on the television show Martha on December 6th, 2006 and stated that her son Andrew is in the “movie business”. Lauren is the subject of several biographies (written by Jeffrey Trachtenberg, Michael Gross and Colin MacDowell). Lauren is also well-known as a collector of classic automobiles. His cars have won best in show at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance multiple times. His collection was recently displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. By 2007 Ralph Lauren had boutiques in New York, Beverly Hills, Chicago, Boston, East Hampton, NY, Manhasset, Short Hills, NJ, San Francisco, Bal Harbour, and Honolulu. www. eilatgordinlevitan. com) After 42 years in business, the Ralph Lauren brand is still going strong. The newer additions to the RL family include shoes, baby and children’s wear, a funkier casual line called Rugby and the very successful fragrance line. After its launch in 1978, Polo for men is still a top seller, while the women’s line has numerous successes such as Romance, Notorious, Pure Turquoise and Love. Polo prefers licensing over manufacturing; it oversees many licensees as well as more than 350 contract manufacturers worldwide.
The firm operates about 275 retail and outlet stores in the US and licenses more than 100 others worldwide. Founder Ralph Lauren still controls almost 90% of Polo’s voting power. From a line of wide ties to a $900 million dollar empire, Ralph Lauren has achieved worldwide domination with his brand based on American casual chic. A visionary designer with a sharp business sense, Ralph Lauren has successfully created a timeless brand that is pure class – without the flash. A visionary designer who has captured the essence of the American spirit in everything from his clothing to his perfumes, Ralph Lauren is an American fashion icon. www. no1-in-beauty. com) Jaesen Keith Costume History FM 122 Anne Hankey Foreman
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