Ralph Lauren was born as Ralph Lipschitz on October 14, 1939. His Jewish parents, Frank and Frida, who originated from Russia had the opportunity to give him a middle-class, but not too glamorous life. Ralph also had three older brothers. With two of them he actually had to share a bedroom.
Ralph Lauren wanted to be different, so at very young age he started working after-schools. He would then use the earned money to buy himself stylish, expensive suits. This soon gave him a trendy reputation in his surroundings.
He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and night classes at the City College of New York, where he took business courses. He also worked part time at Alexander as a stock boy and salesman. He then served 6 months in the Army. Although Ralph Lauren's future was deemed to be in the clothing and fashion industry, Ralph Lauren decided not to attend any fashion school. Instead he went to the City College in Manhattan where he studied Business. However after two years Ralph Lauren dropped out because college couldn't live up to his expectations.
In 1964 he joined Brooks Brothers, the establishment outfitters in New York. This same year, he also met and married his wife Ricky, who was from Vienna and studying at college. They now have 2 sons Andrew and David and a daughter Dylan. Dylan has an Upper East side Candy Store, Andrew is a Film producer and David works for Polo, expanding and refining the company's internet presence.
In 1967 he joined Beau Brummell Neckwear, where he created wide, hand-made, expensive neckties. He tried to sell these to Bloomingdales, but they wanted him to take his name tag off and make the ties narrower, which of course he refused. Within a few months, when his ties were selling briskly in competitive stores, they agreed to carry his ties exactly as he had designed them. His brand name was POLO.
In 1968, with a 50,000 $ loan and his tie designs, Ralph Lauren started his company "Polo Fashions". Characteristic for Ralph Lauren's ties were the Italian colours and designs and the very wide structure of the tie. His tie business was an immediate and immense success. After this Ralph Lauren started focusing on menswear.
In 1871 he opened his first own store. Like his tie business, his menswear collection was an immediate success with the preppy, fashionable young Ivy League men. Only a year later, in 1972, Ralph Lauren also designed his first collection for women. Ralph Lauren's casual, elegant clothes had become a marketing hit. He opened his first store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. He produced a collection of tailored womens shirts. In 1972 he launched a complete range of garments for women, made of cashmere, cotton and tweed. His clothes projected a purely American style of casual chic. He dressed women in literal versions of menswear, pleated trousers, wing collars, pleated shirt fronts, and tweed hacking jackets. All of his collections have themes, in 1978 Ralph Lauren introduced the casual/sophisticated "prairie look", denim skirts worn over layers of white cotton petticoats, fringed buckskin jackets and full sleeved soft blouses. In 1980 he showed hooded capes, linen ruffled blouses, madras cotton shirts and full skirts as part of the "American frontier" look.
In 1983 he went where no designer had gone before. He started his home collection of sheets, towels, flatware and furniture. He created products that revolved around themes. Ralph Lauren success has been due to his ability to sell a thoroughbred image to the public. With Ralph Lauren, you are not buying a product, you are buying into a lifestyle and you become part of a larger traditional world.
Ralph is very socially conscious. He worries about the world's problems. In 1989 Ralph Lauren founded the Nina Hyde Centre for Breast Cancer in Washington, USA and since then has helped raise millions of dollars to fight this disease through various initiatives. He himself had a brain tumour in 1988 which was successfully removed, so he understands the pain and fear of cancer.
In 1992 Ralph Lauren outfitted the American team for America's Cup yacht race. In 1993 Polo Sport store was opened across from the flagship store on Madison Avenue, New York and in 1995 Ralph Lauren introduced several new lines such as Purple Label tailored mens suiting, Ralph Lauren paint collection, infants and toddlers wear, and the Polo Jeans Company. For two years 1995 and 1996 he received the CFDA award, one for Mens wear designer of the year and the second for Womens wear. In the year 2000, the city of New York decided to honour American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This has been called the "FASHION WALK OF FAME." Ralph Lauren was one of those honoured.
By 1997 when he was selling more than $ 5 billion per year, with 155 shops around the world, employing more than 3,000 people Ralph Lauren went public with his company on the New York stock exchange. His estimated net worth is around $ l billion. The Ralph Lauren Company is in private hands. The company consists of more than 350 contract manufacturers worldwide and owns around 400 retail and outlet RL stores worldwide.
His designs blend romance, innovation and tradition with inspirations that travel across time and culture: African safaris, English aristocracy, Parisian café life, Old Hollywood, the Western frontier, Russian revolutionaries, Native American cultures, Eastern prep schools and competitive sports. Ralph Lauren's vision of American style prevails with classic grace and utmost attention to detail. His success lies in his ability to sell a thorough bred image to the masses.
Tyson Beckford, Toby McGuire, Kate Bosworth