Ralph Lauren is an iconic fashion designer known for his classic and timeless designs. His eponymous brand, founded in 1967, has become a global fashion empire with a net worth of over $7 billion. Lauren’s story is one of hard work, creativity, and a deep love of fashion.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz on October 14, 1939, in the Bronx, New York. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Belarus, and Lauren grew up in a working-class neighborhood. Lauren had an early interest in fashion and spent much of his youth working odd jobs to save up money to buy expensive suits. He was also heavily influenced by the movies, which he would watch at a local theater.
Lauren attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he excelled in sports and served as the captain of the tennis team. After high school, he attended Baruch College, where he studied business for two years before dropping out to serve in the United States Army. After his service, Lauren worked briefly as a salesman before landing a job as a tie salesman for the menswear company Beau Brummell. It was during this time that Lauren developed his love of fashion and began to experiment with different styles.
In 1967, Lauren launched his own line of men’s ties under the brand name Polo. The ties were made from unusual materials such as cashmere and were sold in high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. The ties were an instant success and Lauren soon expanded his brand to include men’s clothing, women’s clothing, and accessories.
The Polo Ralph Lauren brand quickly became known for its classic, preppy style. Lauren’s designs were inspired by his love of the American West and included elements such as cowboy hats, denim shirts, and Navajo prints. His designs were popular with celebrities, including Diane Keaton, who wore a Ralph Lauren suit in the movie Annie Hall.
In the 1980s, Lauren expanded his brand even further, launching a line of home furnishings and fragrances. The Ralph Lauren Home collection included bedding, towels, and tableware, while the fragrances included classic scents such as Polo and Lauren. The brand also expanded internationally, opening stores in Europe, Asia, and South America.
In 1997, Lauren made history by becoming the first fashion designer to be awarded the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognized his contributions to the fashion industry and his impact on American style. In his acceptance speech, Lauren said, “I’m an American designer. I’m proud of that fact. And I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.”
In 2000, Lauren stepped down as CEO of the company but remained active in the brand’s creative direction. He continued to design collections and oversaw the company’s philanthropic efforts. In 2009, Lauren was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contributions to the fashion industry.
Today, the Ralph Lauren brand is a global fashion powerhouse. It includes several sub-brands, including Polo Ralph Lauren, Lauren Ralph Lauren, and Ralph Lauren Collection made for every generation. The brand is known for its classic, timeless designs and continues to be a favorite of celebrities and fashion lovers alike.
Despite his enormous success, Lauren remains grounded and dedicated to his craft. He once said, “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” And indeed, his designs have become a symbol of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication, and a deep love of fashion, Ralph Lauren has become one of the most successful fashion designers of all time worn and loved by all.