The History Of Ralph Lauren

Childhood Woes

On the 14th October 1939, Ralph Lifshitz was born to a family of Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, New York.

School was a mixed experience for Ralph. He and his brother were bullied for their second name at school, causing them to change it to Lauren, but Ralph found his passion for clothing and finery there. He made his entrepreneurial debut at High School where he sold handcrafted ties to his classmates, a skill he picked up at an evening job at a clothing store.

The Tie Business

After two years in the US Army reserves and many night classes at Baruch College, Lauren became a neckwear salesman at Brooks Brothers, a high-end New York clothing store. He had desires to sell his own ties as he viewed the neckwear at his workplace as dull and uncreative. After seeing Hollywood movie star Douglas Fairbank Jr outside his shop dressed in a cutting-edge suit, Ralph decided he was to approach other companies in search of a job where he could sell his own designs. Ideally, he would’ve started his own company but he lacked the financial backing.

In 1967 Ralph Lauren soon found work at Beau Brummell, where he was allowed to design and sell his own ties. He wanted to rebel against the typical skinny tie of the 60s but still keep the design classy. Driven by his interest in sport and inspired by his association with Polo and the American dream, Lauren released his first range of ties called ‘Polo’. His wider cut ties were a rapid seller from his small showroom in the Empire State Building.

Expansion

Two years later, New York retailer ‘Bloomingdale’s’ offered him an independent shop at their department store, on the condition that he would reduce the width of his famous European style tie and take their in-house brand name. Lauren refused and Bloomingdale’s came back to him 6 months later, allowing him to sell whichever styles he chose under his name ‘Polo Ralph Lauren’. Soon after that, the store was selling Ralph Lauren men’s ties, polo shirts and jumpers exclusively.

The dawn of the Ralph Lauren logo we know today came years after their initial success. In 1971 Lauren launched a women’s shirt line with the iconic polo player logo embroidered on the cuff. In the same year, Ralph Lauren opened a store on Rodeo Drive in LA selling preppy style clothing with the polo logo to the wealthier members of society. This was the first time the logo was visible anywhere else but the label, it was soon moved to the breast, where it remains today.

Their position as a premium brand for the financial elite of America was solidified in 1974 when Robert Redford wore a Ralph Lauren wardrobe for his lead role as Jay in The Great Gatsby.

Ralph Lauren Today

From here, Ralph Lauren has expanded into the mass market, selling well-made clothing, designed with subtlety, for a premium price. The firm grew from ties to shirts and trousers, now they sell trainers, perfume, candles, sunglasses and much more. Ralph himself stepped down from CEO in 2015, taking a net worth of $5.8 billion with him (July 2017).

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