Over a 50-year career, Ralph Lauren has built one of the world’s largest fashion and apparel empires, generating a total of almost $7 billion a year, from scratch.
His brands have become synonymous with an optimistic and idealised take on preppy Americana, conjuring up, not just emotions and aspirations, but entire immersive worlds, for which Lauren has been likened to Walt Disney.
Besides Ralph Lauren and Polo, the Ralph Lauren company also owns Ralph Lauren Black Label, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Ralph Lauren Blue Label, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Chaps, Club Monaco and others.
Lauren, originally named Ralph Lifshitz, grew up in the Bronx neighbourhood of New York and attended Baruch College. He was remembered by his classmates for his enterprising nature; in between lectures, the young Lauren would sell ties to his fellow students. After serving in the United States Army for two years, Lauren briefly took a job at Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant before leaving to join a tie company.
In 1966, Lauren suggested to the company that they design a wide European-style tie that he had seen Douglas Fairbanks Jr wearing. His idea was dismissed as not being commercially viable, so Lauren decided to form his own company. He sold the ties to small shops in New York and reached a major turning point when he was approached by Neiman Marcus, who bought over a thousand of the ties.
In 1967, with the financial backing of Manhattan clothing manufacturer Norman Hilton, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label "Polo." From these humble beginnings was born the American super brand that exists today.
On June 11, 1997, Ralph Lauren Corporation became a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange. His eldest son, David Lauren, is expected to succeed him in the family business.
Ralph Lauren and his wife spend much of their time at the Lauren family home base, Double RL Ranch, a 17,000 acre piece of land near Telluride, Colorado.