Fashion Designer Ralph Lauren has become the epitome of classic fashion. With product lines such as Polo/Ralph Lauren for Men, Ralph Lauren for Women, Double RL, Ralph Lauren Home, and even Ralph Lauren paint, it makes us wonder who the man behind the label really is.
Born Ralph Lifshitz on October 14, 1939, in the Bronx, New York, Ralph Lauren has come a long way from his days of sharing a bedroom with two of his brothers. Growing up in a middle class Jewish family, Ralph and his three older brothers were raised by his mother, while his artist father painted houses.
Lauren"s fashion sense was apparent at an early age when he would purchase expensive suits with the money he earned working at his after school job. 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.
One would think that Lauren attended fashion design school, but he actually studied business at City College in Manhattan, and dropped out short of receiving his business degree.
Student by night, Lauren would work by day at two glove companies as a salesman. He then worked for a tie manufacturer named A. Rivetz & Co., which ultimately led to the fashion empire he leads today.
While working at A. Rivetz & Co., Lauren began designing wide ties, which spawned his first entrepreneurial career. With his tie designs and a $50,000 loan, Lauren founded the company Polo Fashions in 1968. Along with his older brother, he chose the name Polo because of the power, style and intrigue that the brand has always been associated with.
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.
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.
While Polo was considered the power suit of the early 80"s, Armani had brought the Italian power suit back in style later on in the decade, which pushed aside Polo"s preppy look. Lauren had fought back with his sophisticated line of men"s shirts and suits, made of fine fabrics. He successfully catered to the office worker who wanted to look stylish, while looking powerful in the office.
Next came Lauren"s line of women"s clothing, followed by his home collection line consisting of sheets, towels and furniture in the early 80"s.
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. 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 man 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.
His line of clothing and home collection have the taste and snobbism minus the flashiness that make the Ralph Lauren/Polo brand timeless.
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.
Ralph and his wife, Ricky, have two sons and a daughter: Andrew Lauren (b. 1969, New York City), David Lauren (b. 1971) and Dylan Lauren (b. 1974). Andrew is a film producer, David is an executive at Polo Ralph Lauren and Dylan owns and operates an upscale candy store, Dylan"s Candy Bar, at 60th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.
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.
For over 42 years, Ralph Lauren has cultivated the iconography of America into a global lifestyle empire. Whether it is a reflection of the New England coast, Native American culture, or Hollywood glamour Ralph Lauren embodies an expression of timeless style that is recognized and coveted around the world. Today, the Company is a leader in the design, marketing and distribution of premium lifestyle products in four categories: apparel, home, accessories and fragrances. The Company"s brand names, which include Polo by Ralph Lauren, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Ralph Lauren Collection, Black Label, Blue Label, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, RRL, RLX, Rugby, Ralph Lauren Childrenswear, American Living, Chaps and Club Monaco, constitute one of the most widely recognized families of consumer brands. Polo Ralph Lauren operates over 300 stores worldwide, with recent international expansion in Dubai, Korea, and Paris.
In 1970, Ralph Lauren won the COTY Award for his menswear line. Around that same time he released a line of women"s suit that were tailored in a classic men"s style, which was when the first Polo emblem was seen. It was on the cuff of the women"s suit. Ralph Lauren, released Polo"s famous short sleeve mesh shirt with the Polo logo in 1972. It came out in 24 colors and soon became a classic. He also gained recognition for his design after he was contracted to provide clothing styles for the movie The Great Gatsby.
Polo Ralph Lauren store on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago
In 1984, he transformed the Rhinelander Mansion, former home of the photographer Edgar de Evia and Robert Denning, into the flagship store for Polo Ralph Lauren. This same year de Evia photographed the cover feature story for House & Garden on the Lauren home Round Hill in Jamaica, which had formerly been the home of Babe and Bill Paley. On June 11, 1997, Polo Ralph Lauren became a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RL.
By 2007 Ralph Lauren had over 35 boutiques in United States. There were 23 locations that carried Ralph Lauren Purple Label, including Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Boston, Charlotte, Wisconsin Avenue, Chicago, Costa Mesa, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Manhasset, New York, Palm Beach, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Short Hills, and Troy. The Financial Times reported in its edition of January 2 3, 2010 that the firm had revenues of 5 billion for the fiscal year 2009. The article addresses succession plans and the future of the overall business.
In 2010, Ralph Lauren was decorated Chevalier de la Legion d"honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in Paris.
Sometime in early 1987, he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. In April 1987 he underwent surgery to remove the tumor and made a full recovery.
Ralph Lauren is also well known as a collector of classic automobiles. A large portion of his automobiles are held in his large estate in Katonah, NY. He owns a Ferrari 250 GTO, a McLaren F1 GTR LM, 2 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantics, and, more recently, a Bugatti Veyron among others. His cars have won best in show at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d"Elegance multiple times. In 2005 his collection was displayed at Boston"s Museum of Fine Arts.
For Fall 2012 designers are inspired by a wide range of influences, from the elaborate details of brocade and metallic gold embellishments to the dynamic mix of military chic and power pantsuits. Colo