Archive for February, 2010

The unauthorized biography of Ralph Lauren.

Posted in LIFE, MEN with tags , on February 24, 2010 by Jaiye Gesinde

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.
Ralph Lauren
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.
Ralph Lauren
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. He is also the father of three children, Andrew, David and Dylan.

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.