Fashion - September 11, 2018

How to create an iconic brand – Volume 12: Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren, the legendary American brand, celebrated only a few days ago its 50th anniversary with a monumental fashion show in Central Park, that we’re going to remember for many years to come. The USA designer’s career is full of facts you all should know. Are you ready to discover a bit more about Ralph Lauren’s history here on The Blonde Salad?


The Sixties: everything started with a tie

Sometimes, destiny is stronger than anything. Ralph Lauren’s destiny was to become a worldwide famous fashion designer and to create an empire. He wasn’t destined to become a rabbi. Born in the Bronx in 1939, Ralph Lipschitz (that’s his real surname) should have moved up in the New York Orthodox Jewish community, but his passion for fashion, especially for British style, brought him to spend all his days inside some of the most beautiful boutiques in the city, like Brooks Brothers’one. Here, in the store located on Madison Avenue, Ralph started his career in fashion as a sales assistant in 1963.

A few years later, he started working for Beau Brummell, a tie manufacturer. Thanks to his initiative attitude, in 1967 he persuaded the company to launch his own line, that he called Polo in honour of his passion for English aesthetics. His ties gained a lot of success, and from his drawer inside the Empire State Building, Ralph Lauren became well known among the most famous apparel retailer in New York. In 1968, Lauren launched his first menswear collection and one year later Bloomingdale’s, for the first time in his history, dedicated to the designer an exclusive shop in shop for his collections.

The Seventies: the polo is born

In the Seventies, Ralph Lauren started to build his fashion empire. After being awarded a Coty Award for his menswear collection, in 1971 the designer launched his first shirt collection for women with a polo player embroidered on the cuff. This is how the iconic symbol of Ralph Lauren’s style born. One year later, Lauren introduced a signature cotton mesh Polo shirt in seventeen different colours. Featuring the polo player logo at the chest, the shirt became emblematic of the preppy look. In 1972, the designer opened his first boutique in Rodeo Drive. It was the first freestanding store ever for an American designer. With his refined elegance, Lauren soon became a favourite for the American Wasp wealthy class.

Ralph Lauren’s name and style started to spread all over the world. The movie industry certainly helped him to become famous. In 1974, he designed all the costumes, and especially Robert Redford’s outfits, for The Great Gatsby, while in 1977 he dressed Woody Allen and Diane Keaton for Annie Hall. This successful decade closed with the launch of his first two fragrances, Polo for men and Lauren for women.

The Eighties: Ralph Lauren became a global brand

In 1981, Ralph Lauren started his international expansion. In this year, he entered in the European market opening his first boutique in London in New Bond Street: once again, it’s the first time an American designer opens a mono-brand store in this British luxury temple. In 1986, after a three-year restyling, he opened the doors of his iconic store on Madison Avenue in New York, inside Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo House. In the Eighties, the designer and his wife Ricky purchased a 17,000 acres property in the Colorado uplands. It was later named the Double RL Ranch, the famous buen retiro of the Laurens and the first source of inspiration for the Western imagery that will always be part of the Ralph Lauren’s aesthetics.

Thanks to the brand’s global expansion, Ralph Lauren started to launch multiple fashion collections, younger brands and licensing agreements, such as kidswear, eyewear, home collection and many famous brands like Lauren Ralph Lauren and Chaps. The Ralph Lauren Corporation would count more than 30 brands!


The Nineties: Ralph Lauren takes Wall Street

Ralph Lauren’s style conquered the world: boys purchased his colourful polo shirts in stock, businessmen loved his sartorial suits, women are fascinated by the Upper East Side allure of his clothes. To support the global expansion of the group, the designer needed a solid partner. Goldman Sachs in 1994 acquired a minority stake of the group, that in 1999 was listed on New York Stock Exchange. In 2015, a record year for the company, sales touched 7,5 billion dollars, making Ralph Lauren one of the biggest brand in the world.

In 1999, Ralph Lauren opened in Chicago his first restaurant. He would open three more locations in New York, Paris and London. In that year, as well, his style exploded on the red carpet: he dressed Gwyneth Paltrow for the 71st Academy Awards ceremony, when she was awarded for Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love.

The 200s: the legend goes on

Despite the crisis and all the changes that the fashion industry faced in the latest years, Ralph Lauren is still one of the most important brands in the fashion biz. He was able not only to represent the American heritage but also to talk to new generations (tale a look to @poloralphlauren Instagram account). The proof is the latest 50th-anniversary fashion show: inside Central Park, the designer portrayed a collection in which his heritage was mixed to a new contemporary touch.

The #RL50 fashion show has been one of the first events our dearest Chiara Ferragni took part in New York Fashion Week. For this event, the designer opened to her the doors of his archive, letting her choosing some of his most iconic outfits.





Last thing to know about Ralph Lauren. Do you know which is his greatest passion? Cars! His collection (he has 70 cars, included various Ferraris) was estimated by Forbes to be worth at least $300 million. A little portion of his great collection was displayed in 2011 during the exhibition “L’art de l’automobile: Chefs d’oeuvre de la collection Ralph Lauren” at Paris Musée des arts decoratifs, while others have been part of the scenery of the September 2017 runway show dedicated to fall-winter 2017 collection.

Discover more about Ralph Lauren’s style through some of the most beautiful collections of the brand and don’t miss all the Stories on The Blonde Salad Instagram account!

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