FASHION FOCUS ON RALPH LAUREN
Repertoire explores how the household label was originally created. Ralph Lauren is a renowned entrepreneur with a multinational company comprising of instantly recognisable product lines, such as Polo Ralph Lauren for Men, Ralph Lauren for Women, Ralph Denim and Supply, Double RL, and Ralph Lauren Home.
Ralph Lifschitz, however, is not as well known as his aforementioned brands. Yet even as a young boy, Ralph always had aspirations. Born into a working-class Jewish family on October 14, 1939, in the Bronx, New York, he longed for a luxurious life, buying expensive suits as a pre-teen with his first earnings. Little did he know he would grow up to become the founder of a billion dollar company and a major contributor to the lifestyle industry. Ralph was raised by his mother alongside two of his three brothers, while their father was a house painter.
Rather than attend fashion design school, Lauren studied for a business degree at City College in Manhattan, which he did not complete, perhaps due to juggling working as a salesman for two glove companies whilst studying during the evenings. Lauren instinctively knew the power of packaging and presentation were essential to building a brand and did not need a degree to work out. Between school and his career move into the fashion industry, Lauren served in the United States Army from 1962-1964.
Ralph Lauren then went to work for a tie manufacturer named A. Rivetz & Co, which ultimately led to the fashion empire he heads today. At A. Rivetz & Co Lauren decided to design wide ties. With these designs and a $50,000 loan, Lauren founded the company Polo Fashions in 1968. Collaborating with his older brother, Lauren chose the name Polo because of the power, style and intrigue that the word has always been associated with.
Problems arose during the late 60’s. When Lauren tried to develop his line of wide ties, Bloomingdale’s insisted Lauren remove his name from the label, and that his ties should be narrower. The idea of enforcing conformity seems laughable now, with Ralph Lauren’s signature Polo player emblazoned everywhere and his name still so significant in fashion and in business. However, Lauren refused to give into the retail giant Bloomingdale’s and sold no stock to them. Needless to say, after seeing the success of Lauren’s brand take off, Bloomingdale’s came back to Lauren and asked for the ties in their original design with the polo player logo.
Lauren’s luck had changed; in 1970 he won the COTY (American Fashion Critics’ Awards) menswear line award. The first Polo emblem appeared on a line of women’s suits tailored in classic male style which Lauren released after he received this award.
Synonymous with Ralph Lauren’s fashion label is the short-sleeved mesh shirt featuring the Polo logo, which the designer produced in 24 colours in 1972, where it was met with the same level of adoration it still receives today.
Also during the seventies, Ralph Lauren received further acknowledgement of his contribution to fashion when he was commissioned to provide clothing for the 1974 film The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford; now a major motion picture starring Leonardo Dicaprio. It seemed the position of Ralph Lauren in fashion history was fairly cemented. However during the eighties there was a fight for focus, another of Repertoire’s key designers, Giorgio Armani owned the iconic “power suit” so synonymous with eighties’ fashion, which had the potential to make the preppy Polo label look redundant; the signature style is shown in these sky blue cotton chinos from our Spring Summer collection:
Lauren was undeterred and fought back with his sophisticated line of fine fabric men’s shirts and suits, and so began catering to the 9-5 office worker who required a clothing collection that gave them round-the-clock style. Lauren’s line of women’s clothing followed and then his home collection line consisting of sheets, towels and furniture in the early 80’s.
In so many ways, Ralph Lauren was a pioneer of fashion lifestyle. Today he remains the founder, designer and chairman of a $900 million company. Lauren became the first fashion designer to have his own shop, but more significantly, he was the man that presented a lifestyle image that consumers aspired to and remains popular today.
When you buy something by Ralph Lauren from Repertoire – like this signature Ralph Lauren polo shirt –
it is easy to see now that you are buying into a part of business history, particularly the lifestyle Ralph Lifschitz wanted to perpetuate from a young age. With his business awareness, product loyalty, and fashion longevity, it is no real wonder the man himself has a net worth of $1 billion. Founder Ralph Lauren still controls almost 90% of Polo’s voting power. The licensed Polo firm has more than 350 worldwide contract manufacturers and operates about 275 retail and outlet stores in the US and licenses more than 100 others worldwide. Over a decade ago, in 2002 Ralph Lauren was honoured with the Vogue/VH1 Fashion Awards Lifetime Achievement Award, where he celebrated his company’s 35th anniversary.
Perhaps what separates the man from the business is his personal life; Ralph Lauren married Ricky Anne Low-Beer on December 20, 1964 in New York after his days in the army. He is also the father of three children, Andrew, David and Dylan.
One thing is certain, Ralph Lauren built his company up from next to nothing, having started his multi billion dollar company with a mere 26 boxes of ties in 1967, and we at Repertoirefashion.co.uk and our five stores are extremely proud and privileged to be official stockists of his clothing today.