Ralph Lauren is one of those revivers of American fashion who manage companies for millions of dollars – fashion empires that shape the big picture of world trends and change our understanding of style and what contemporary fashion in fact is. Such an impact, however, is difficult to achieve even when it doesn’t look so on paper. One needs qualities such as a flair for business, nonconformity with the status quo, a search for innovative solutions, devotion to work and, perhaps, education in the relevant field. The last one is not obligatory, of course.
Ralph Lauren was born in 1939 in New York. Born Ralph Lifshitz, he changes his family name when he is 16 years old. He starts studying business, but after two years he gives it up and joins the American army. Soon afterwards he starts making his way to becoming a professional designer.
The first contact with the world of fashion occurs when Ralph starts working as a necktie seller. In 1966 he decides that he wants to create his own line, inspired by European style. The company that he is working for at the time, however, refuses this proposal as it doesn’t find it profitable enough. He quits and starts sewing neckties on his own. He sells them to small shops in New York until one day he receives an order from the famous store Neiman Marcus for 1,200 pieces.
In 1967 New York-based clothes producer Norman Hilton helps Ralph Lauren open his own store and sell neckties, whose brand is Polo. Four years later, he opens a second store in Beverly Hills. The designer starts making men’s clothing, and in 1970 he launches a women’s line with recognisable androgynous outfits. This is when the first logo of the brand appears. Next come the openings of a number of boutiques and absolute success, which the name of Ralph Lauren has enjoyed up to the present day.
The American designer is, apart from everything else, a well-known philanthropist. His way to the multi-billion empire that he creates is paved with a lot of devotion and charity. In 1987 he is diagnosed with a benign brain tumour, which is successfully removed, leading to Lauren’s complete recovery. Later on, he co-founds a breast cancer research centre at Georgetown University. Ralph Lauren’s corporation supports the activity of many organisations, fighting breast cancer, among other types.
At present, his empire is worth an estimated 7 billion dollars. He has three children with his wife Ricky Anne Loew-Beer, whom he marries in 1964. Ralph Lauren has a vast collection of retro and contemporary cars, which are readily presented to museums willing to include them in their temporary exhibitions. We are waiting to see more from the one and only Ralph Lauren in New York, along with the other American designers, whose work and stories we follow with the same curiosity.
Text: Stefy Stoeva