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 Ralph Lauren, the Ralph Lauren company also owns Polo & RLX Golf, Denim & Supply, RRL, and Ralph Lauren Purple Label, as well as subsidiaries Club Monaco and Chaps, amongst 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 tie manufacturer, Beau Brummell.
In 1967, the company’s president agreed to let Lauren start his own line. Drawing on his interest in sports, Lauren called his line “Polo.” Against the trends of the day, his ties were wide and handmade from high-end fabrics. He worked out of a single ‘drawer’ in a showroom in the Empire State Building and personally made deliveries to stores. In his first year in business, he sold $500,000 worth of ties to the most prestigious names in men’s clothing, including Paul Stuart, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. 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.
Ralph Lauren and his family spend much of their time at one of the Lauren family homes including the Double RL Ranch, a 17,000-acre piece of land near Telluride, Colorado.