The name Ralph Lauren conjures images of classic American ensconced in high-end luxury, and that’s exactly how the New York- born fashion designer intended it. instead of selling just clothes, he sold a lifestyle that he portrayed with his distinctive advertisements of fair-haired boys in khaki chinos, elegant brunettes in sharp. white, dress shirts and bright-eyed children in preppy, seersucker shorts. sure, he sold the clothes, but he also sold the fantastic, romanticized lives of the people who wear the clothes – the look of success. While his fellow fashion designers started at the high end and filtered their brand downstream, Lauren was visionary in offering luxury at all price points.
He went to Baruch College where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army and left to work briefly for Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant before leaving to become a salesman for a tie company. In 1966, when he was 26, he was inspired to design a wide, European-style necktie he had seen Douglas Fairbanks Jr wearing, but the idea was rejected by the company he worked for as not being commercially viable. He left to establish his own company working out of a drawer in the Empire State Building, taking rags and turning them into ties. He sold the ties to small shops in New York, with a major turning point when he was approached by Neiman Marcus, who bought 100 dozen.
In 1967, with the financial backing of Manhattan clothing manufacturer Norman Hilton, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label “Polo.” He later received the rights to use the trademark Polo from Brooks Brothers, however Brooks Brothers managed to retain its rights to the iconic “original polo button-down collar” shirt , in spite of Lauren’s Polo trademark. In 1971, he expanded his line and opened a Polo boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
The Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store occupying the Rhinelander Mansion on Madison Avenue in New York City
In 1970, Ralph Lauren won the COTY Award for his menswear line. Around that same time he released a line of women’s suits 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 pique shirt with the Polo logo in 1972 and unveiled his first Ralph Lauren collection for women. 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 as well as for Diane Keaton’s title character in the 1977 film, Annie Hall.
A 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, Ralph Lauren Corporation became a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RL.
By 2007 Ralph Lauren had over 35 boutiques in the United States; 23 locations carried the Ralph Lauren Purple Label, including Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Boston, Charlotte, Washington DC, Chicago, Costa Mesa, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Manhasset, New York, Palm Beach, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, Short Hills, Montreal and Troy. The Financial Times reported in January 2010 that the firm had revenues of $5 billion for fiscal year 2009.
Quote: “Quality before quantity. The essence of style is understatement.”