Born: Ralph Lifschitz, Bronx, New York, 14 October 1939. Education: Studied business science, City College of New York, late 1950s. Military Service: Served in the U.S. Army, 1962-64. Family: Married Ricky Low-Beer, circa 1964; children: Andrew, David, Dylan. Career: Part-time sales assistant, Alexanders Stores, New York, 1956-57; assistant menswear buyer, Allied Stores, New York, 1958-61; salesperson, Bloomingdale's and Brooks Brothers, New York, 1962; traveling salesperson in New England for A. Rivetz, neckwear manufacturer, Boston, circa 1964-66; designer, Polo Neckwear Division, Beau Brummel, New York, 1967; founder/designer and chairman, Polo Fashions, New York, from 1968; Ralph Lauren Womenswear, from 1971; Polo Leather Goods, from 1979; Polo/Ralph Lauren Luggage, from 1982; Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., from 1986; introduced diffusion line, Chaps, 1972; introduced Ralph, Double RL, and Polo Sport lines, 1993; established Polo/Ralph Lauren stores in Beverly Hills, 1971, Lawrence, MA, 1983, Paris, 1986, flagship store in New York, 1986, Costa Mesa, CA, 1987, East Hampton, NY, 1989; Polo Sport, New York, 1993; launched fragrances Polo and Lauren, 1978, Chaps and Tuxedo, 1979, Safari, 1990, Polo Crest, 1991; new line of contemporary casualwear launched by Polo Jeans Co., 1996; offered collection of 400 colors of house paint, 1996; Polo Ralph Lauren became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RL), 1997; introduced Polo Sport RLX line, 1998; opened RL restaurant, Chicago, 1999; introduced RALPH line, 1999; acquired Canadian-based Club Monaco, 1999; launched Pink Pony Campaign to help reduce disparities in cancer care, 2000; established Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention and Care at North General Hospital in Harlem, 2000; Ralph Lauren Media opened Polo.com, 2000. Exhibitions: Retrospective, Denver Art Museum, 1983. Collections: Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics award, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1984; Neiman Marcus distinguished service award, 1971; American Printed Fabrics Council "Tommy" award, 1977; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1981; Coty Hall of Fame award, 1981; Retailer of the Year award, 1986, 1992; Museum of American Folk Art Pioneering Excellence award, 1988; Council of Fashion Designers of America Lifetime Achievement award, 1992; Woolmark award, 1992; CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year, 1996; Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Brandeis University, 1996; Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research Humanitarian award presented by Diana, Princess of Wales, 1996; CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year, 1997; CFDA award for humanitarian leadership, 1998; inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame, 2000. Address: 650 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022, USA. Website: www.Polo.com.
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Style, as opposed to fashion, is the major imperative underlying Ralph Lauren's work. Initially a designer of the high-quality ties that started the Polo label, Lauren soon directed his talents to menswear. Inspired by such notable dressers as the Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant, and Fred Astaire, he began to produce classic lines derivative of the elegant man about town or the country squire of a bygone age. A love of the fashions of the F. Scott Fitzgerald era led him to introduce wide neckties and bold shirt patterns. In 1974 Lauren achieved world acclaim as the designer of the men's fashions in the film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.
When he turned to womenswear, Lauren applied the same qualities of timeless elegance to his designs. By using uniformly high-quality tweeds, tailoring down men's trousers and jackets, and producing shirts in finer cottons, Lauren created clothes for the active woman of the 1970s, as epitomized in the Annie Hall look. These classic, tailored garments have changed little since they were first introduced but continue to epitomize long-lasting quality and style.
Another side of Lauren is seen in his Roughwear clothing. Directly inspired by the tradition of America's past, Roughwear takes the form of long tweed or plain skirts combined with colorful, hand-knitted, Fair Isle or sampler sweaters, tartan scarves, trilby hats, and lumber-jack's wind cheaters and brushed cotton shirts. The origins are easy to trace, but the result is an updated, truly American style. Romantic touches of Edwardian and Victorian times occur in lace-trimmed jabots and large collars delicately held together with aging cameo brooches. Shades of the classic English riding costume appear in his tailored tweed jackets. Lauren's contribution to fashion can perhaps best be summed up on the names that he gave to his cosmetics introduced in 1981: Day, Night, and Active.
In the 1990s, Lauren continued to tune into contemporary life. The Double RL label featured new, high-quality clothes that looked old as a response to the craze for the vintage and second-hand. For increasingly fitness-conscious women, he produced informal clothes with a strong fashion input. To appeal to the youthful interests of younger customers, Polo Jeans launched a line of contemporary casualwear in 1996. Two years later, Lauren's trademark aesthetic sensibility and superior craftsmanship was applied to the Polo Sport RLX line of high-performance athletic apparel.
As the new millennium approached, the Ralph Lauren Company began moving from Ivy League to pop culture by acquiring Canadian-based Club Monaco, marketing contemporary apparel, home furnishings, accessories, and cosmetics for the hip, urban crowd. In 2000, Ralph Lauren Media launched the Polo.com website, offering "comprehensive online access to the Ralph Lauren American lifestyle with clothing, accessories, fragrances, vintage items, travel, style tips, multimedia information and entertainment, world-class customer service and more." With son David Lauren as creative director, Polo.com aimed to "spread the upper-crust Ralph Lauren image to a new generation of shoppers," wrote Phyllis Furman in a February 2000 article in the Daily News.
Still, Lauren's womenswear for fall 2001 came full circle, offering the classic styling of equestrian looks from the country estate such as hacking jackets, taupe and ebony pants with suede knee patches, sleek crocodile belts with thoroughbred buckles, and riding boots with oilcloth spats. For the menswear spring 2001 collection, the timeless Polo line was updated with slim polo shirts and lime green, Nantucket red, and hot orange fuchsia-front trousers. The more dressed up Purple Line offered suits with sculpted waists and soft natural shoulders, paired with striped ties, creating the classic Lauren look.
Lauren's skill and experience has enabled him to design for women and men, their children, and their homes. As a native New Yorker, Lauren has promoted a truly American casual style in his prairie look while developing classic, uncluttered lines that have brought him international fame. Along with colleagues Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, and six other designers, Lauren earned a white bronze and granite marker along the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York City. This worldwide notoriety will also be the subject of a new biography of Lauren, the story, according to a March 2000 article in Publishers Weekly, of "a poor Russian Jewish immigrant boy who began in Seventh Avenue fashion house stock rooms and became a billionaire."
For Ralph Lauren, fashion is something that lasts for more than one season. It is this timelessness, abetted by inspirations deep in the soil of America's past, that distinguishes his work and won him a Lifetime Achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1992.
updated by Jodi Essey-Stapleton
"Lauren, Ralph." Contemporary Fashion. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lauren-ralph
"Lauren, Ralph." Contemporary Fashion. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lauren-ralph
Born Ralph Lipschitz in 1939, the name of American designer Ralph Lauren became synonymous with status, class, and taste.
More than a fashion designer, Ralph Lauren was the master marketer of elegant living. In addition to clothing, he ventured into home decorating products such as furniture, bedding, drapes, towels, rugs, china, silverware, and even potpourri.
Born in the Bronx, New York City in 1939, Lauren grew up in a working-class neighborhood. Although he did not receive formal design training, he was royally steeped in fashion retailing, having worked for New York department stores in his youth. While selling ties at Brooks Brothers, he studied business at night school. It may well have been during his sales stint at Brooks Brothers, the conservative stylish menswear store, that Lauren met the "muse of tradition" which would earn him a formidable position in fashion history.
The Old Money Look
Oddly, Lauren's initial entry into fashion was designing napkin-wide Beau Brummel neckwear in 1967. At the time narrow dark ties were the norm, but he successfully shattered that tradition with colorful, opulent trendy ties. The next year he launched a menswear line, Polo, offering styles that were refined, a mix of English classic and traditional American, and conveyed the image of landed gentry to a society that had little use for class, but enormous use for money.
In 1971 Lauren introduced his women's line, which developed into four lifestyle groups: collection, classics, country, and active. Eyewear was launched in 1974, boyswear and the fragrances Polo for men and Lauren for women in 1978. Girls' clothing was introduced in 1981; footwear followed in 1982; an extensive home collection in 1983; then came scarves, hosiery, sleepwear, leather goods, luggage, jewelry, and finally his Safari fragrance in 1990.
His costuming for the films The Great Gatsby (1973) and Annie Hall (1978) influenced the way millions dressed. Modestly describing his work, Lauren stated: "I believe in clothes that last, that are not dated in a season. The people who wear my clothes don't think of them as fashion." Lauren's vision was to represent timeless American style with a dash of British elegance and the comfort of natural fibers.
From Fashion to Lifestyle
Woody Hochswender, editor of Esquire magazine, said, "Ralph is a great interpreter of American traditions and he shapes these traditions in an ongoing way." Some critics said that Lauren sold a high-priced lifestyle dream more than innovative designs. There is no question that his to-the-manor-born clothing, accessories, and home furnishings endow the owner with a sense of good taste. His advertising drove the message by focusing on the concept, rather than a single item; and his marketing and merchandising translated the vision at retail. It was a winning combination that had a tremendous impact on the way the world dressed and lived in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Haysun Hahn of Promostyl, an international fashion forecasting agency, said that "It's costuming, it's not real. He's influenced by romantic Americana and he taps into our fantasy and makes us believe it applies to everyday life." But apparently, consumers want to believe in Lauren. His formidable fashion formula was the most successful in fashion retailing, garnering a multitude of honors from his peers. He had seven COTY Awards and was inducted into the COTY Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1992 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of American Fashion Designers, and a tribute for 25 years of impact on American style from the Woolmark Awards. The Council of Fashion Designers later elected him Designer of the Year in 1996. Alan Millstein of the Fashion Network Report said, "Lauren is the only 7th Avenue high roller who has a successful chain of retail stores. He's the billion-dollar baby."
A Merchandising Genius
In 1971 Lauren opened his first retail store on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, California, building toward a total of 116 Polo-Ralph Lauren freestanding stores in the United States, plus one in London, Paris, and Shanghai, as well as 1,300 boutiques in department stores. Company-owned outlet stores selling overruns and outdated merchandise at discounted prices followed in the early 1980s, and by the mid-1990s included 62 stores. In 1986 he made fashion retailing history with an expansive megastore housed in the huge, elegant, former Rhinelander Mansion in New York. A tour de force of his concept of dreams and designs, the store is a stunning showcase for Lauren's lifestyle marketing philosophy. John Fairchild, chairman of Women's Wear Daily, called it "The best boutique in America, probably the world." Consumers worldwide responded to the magic— spending over $5 billion a year by 1997 to have the Lauren Look—making him the best-selling designer in the world.
Lauren exemplified the image he projected, and was often featured with his family in magazines chronicling lives of the rich and famous. He was the first designer to market a lifestyle, and also the first to appear in his own advertising.
His womenswear fashion previews held each spring and fall in New York were the predictable hits of the designer collection week as he managed to tastefully interpret trends with an undisputable flair for understanding that his customers wanted to look fashionable without looking like fashion victims. For inspiration, he sometimes based collections on themes such as African safaris, Indian princesses, rugged westwear, bohemians in Paris, or Russian revolutionaries. His mix of tweeds, velvets, chiffon, and silks exuded a nonchalant elegance.
An Empire Poised for Growth
One of the secrets of Lauren's success lay in his obsession with detail, always checking product quality and maintaining tight control over the brand image he crafted so carefully. This enabled him to leverage the Polo/Ralph Lauren brand with over 25 lucrative licensing contracts, as well as introduce sub-brands such as Polo Sport (in 1994) targeted to a younger, more active adult. Experts predicted that what began as a fragrance line would grow to include well over 100 skin color and treatment products, new cross-merchandising opportunities, as well as new retail distribution. In fact, in 1996 a new Polo Sport store featuring active wear opened in Manhattan across from Polo's flagship store.
In addition to its top-of-the-line men's and women's clothing still manufactured by Polo/Ralph Lauren, licensed products are an important source of revenue. Two major new ventures began in 1995 taking the brand into the highly competitive blue jean and mass market women's clothing categories. Both took the Lauren name to a new customer at lower price points, and were instant hits. Growth was not relegated to fashion and fragrance, however. In 1996, Lauren's Home Collection contributed about $535 million in sales worldwide—more than any other designer's. Paints were launched the same year, along with instruction videos and all the tools needed to create the living environment of ones choice—Thoroughbred, Country, Santa Fe, Safari, and Sport. By 1997 investment bankers were vying for the opportunity to help Lauren take the company public; however, the success and staying power of Lauren's empire has not been lost on Wall Street
For more information on Ralph Lauren and the world of fashion see Ralph Lauren: Master of Fashion by Anne Canadeo (1992), Ralph Lauren: The Man Behind the Mystique by Jeffrey Trachtenbers (1988), the Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion (1988), McDowell's Directory of 20th Century Fashion (1987), and NY Fashion: The Evolution of American Style by Caroline Rennolds Milbank (1989). Countless magazine articles have been written, including: Fortune (November 11, 1996); Newsweek (January 8, 1996); Brandweek (June 10, 1996); Town & Country (October 1996, March 1996, January 1996); Harper's Bazaar (August 1996). □
"Ralph Lauren." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ralph-lauren
"Ralph Lauren." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ralph-lauren
Born: October 14, 1939
New York, New York
The name of American clothing designer Ralph Lauren has become associated with class and taste. In addition to clothing, he designs home decorating products such as furniture, bedding, drapes, towels, rugs, china, and silverware.
The youngest of four children, Ralph Lifshitz was born in the Bronx, New York, on October 14, 1939. His father was a house-painter. Ralph became interested in clothes when he was in seventh grade. While attending DeWitt Clinton High School in New York, he worked part-time for New York department stores, saving his money to buy clothes. He changed his name to Lauren in the mid-1950s. After graduating from high school he worked as a salesman and began studying business at night. He quit school after a few months, spent time in the army, and then looked for a job in fashion.
Creates popular fashions
In 1967 Lauren was hired by Beau Brummell Ties as a designer. His wide, colorful ties were the opposite of the narrow dark neckties common at the time; they sold well and started a new trend. Lauren started his own company and the next year launched a line of men's clothing, Polo, offering styles that were a mix of English and American styles and that expressed an image of class. Lauren's menswear was a success, and in 1971 he introduced his women's line. As the years went by he continued to branch out into children's clothes, colognes, footwear, home products, and other merchandise.
Lauren designed costumes for the films The Great Gatsby (1973) and Annie Hall (1978) that influenced the way millions dressed. Modestly describing his work, Lauren stated, "I believe in clothes that last, that are not dated in a season. The people who wear my clothes don't think of them as fashion.' Lauren's vision was to represent American style with a dash of British elegance and the comfort of natural fibers.
Lauren lived the image he projected, and he was often featured with his family in magazines devoted to lives of the rich and famous. He was also the first designer to appear in his own advertising. One of the secrets of Lauren's success lay in his attention to detail, always checking product quality and maintaining tight control over the brand image he crafted so carefully. Lauren's fashion formula earned many honors from his peers. He had seven Coty design awards and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1992 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of American Fashion Designers and a tribute for twenty-five years of impact on American style from the Woolmark Awards. The Council of Fashion Designers later elected him Designer of the Year in 1996.
In 1971 Lauren opened his first retail store in Beverly Hills, California, building toward a total of 116 Polo-Ralph Lauren stores in the United States as well as 1,300 boutiques (small shops within department stores). In 1986 he made fashion retailing history with a large megastore housed in the elegant former Rhinelander Mansion in New York. John Fairchild, chairman of Women's Wear Daily, called it "The best boutique in America, probably the world." Consumers responded, spending over $5 billion a year by 1997 to have the Lauren look and making him the best-selling designer in the world.
Two major new ventures begun in 1995 took Lauren into the highly competitive blue jean and mass-market women's clothing categories. Both took the Lauren name to a new customer at lower prices and were instant hits. In 1996 Lauren's Home Collection contributed about $535 million in sales world-wide—more than any other designer. Paints were launched the same year, along with instruction videos and all the tools needed to create the living environment of one's choice. By 1997 investment bankers were fighting for the opportunity to help Lauren put his company on the stock market.
In 1998 Lauren announced that his company would donate $13 million to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., mainly to preserve the original American flag that inspired the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1812. That same year he was honored for his efforts to raise money for research into a cure for breast cancer. In 2000 the company's Web site, Polo.com, was introduced, allowing online access to all Ralph Lauren products. Lauren's charitable contributions continued with the creation of the Polo Volunteer Program and the contribution of $5 million to establish the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention and Care at North General Hospital in Harlem, New York.
For More Information
Canadeo, Anne. Ralph Lauren: Master of Fashion. Ada, OK: Garrett Educational Corporation, 1992.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds. NY Fashion: The Evolution of American Style. New York: Abrams, 1989.
Trachtenberg, Jeffrey. Ralph Lauren: The Man Behind the Mystique. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.
"Lauren, Ralph." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lauren-ralph
"Lauren, Ralph." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lauren-ralph
Ralph Lauren (lôr´ən, lərĕn´), 1939–, American fashion designer, b. New York City as Ralph Lipschitz. He began his career by creating neckties under the name Polo for Beau Brummel. In 1968 he created a menswear line under the Polo name. Since then, he has branched out into tailored shirts for women, boy's clothes, and women's ready-to-wear fashions in fabrics such as English flannel, Harris tweeds, silk, and cashmere. His name also appears on such diverse products as home furnishings, tableware, and luggage. He designed the costumes for the films The Great Gatsby (1974) and Annie Hall (1977). His look is traditional, luxurious, and casual. His collections have inspired interest in the American West and American country styles.
See biography by M. Gross (2003).
"Lauren, Ralph." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lauren-ralph
"Lauren, Ralph." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lauren-ralph