Ralph Lauren: biography of the American designer who invented the polo shirt

If you’re wearing it now, or if you’ve hung it in your closet, you owe it to him, to Ralph Lauren.

The “pope” of the so-called polo shirt and this gentleman from New York with a light-hearted and always young air, even if this year the candles have risen to 80.

America’s most multifaceted designer has founded an empire that ranges from clothing to sports cars, and manages it with the same determination with which he took care of it when he was thirty. And the mess was long!

The success of a kid from the Bronx

Born in 1939 to a Jewish family of Belarusian origins, Ralph Lifshitz grew up in the Bronx, a New York neighborhood then inhabited exclusively by immigrants and poor people. Together with the three brothers he attended the Talmudic school of his community and later the Baruch college and the University of New York where he graduated in Economics and Business.

After his military service, he started working for a clothing company specializing in ties at the age of 24.

Little by little he convinces the boss to let him produce his own idea of ​​a tie, which he designs loose and handmade, using some unusual, rich and flamboyant materials.

The success of this fashion taste encourages both Ralph and his employer to bet on his creativity again.

Ralph Lauren: the career of the American designer

Thus, in 1968, the very first collection signed by him started. He worked, the designer recalls, “with only one drawer of stuff” and making deliveries personally.

But sports fashion inspired by his favorite sport, polo, will have a resounding success throughout New York. Before 1974 she sold her creations at the historic Bloomingdale’s shopping center in New York and several stores in Beverly Hills, California, and her name began to circulate in the fashion world.

He decides to open his first store in Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles.

In 1971 he created the first women’s line with a collection of male-cut shirts, adapting garments for male use for the female audience.

The well-known logo of the polo player was born with the women’s line, which today is the icon of Ralph Lauren style.

It is therefore to be attributed to the 70s the birth of the Ralph Lauren polo shirt , which becomes the icon of the Preppy style , which develops as an exclusive fashion, especially among rich people, combining the elegance of the uniform with a sporty look, thanks to some elements “stolen” from the uniforms of sports teams. And it is therefore also thanks to Ralph Lauren that this style invades the streets all over the world and is also the protagonist in cinematography, with the films The Great Gatsby and Me and Annie  by Woodie Allen.

Returning to the life of Ralph Lauren, the following year, in 1972, the American designer expands his presence on the market, also starting to deal with accessories and footwear: he changes his name to “Lauren” to make his own signature more American and founded the Ralph Lauren Corporation, which began designing and manufacturing men’s and women’s fashion lines.

Over time, the company broadened its horizons by lending its name to perfumery lines and the sports car industry , an ancient passion of the young Ralph.

With the company’s proceeds, Ralph Lauren has done and continues to do a lot of charity as well. In fact, it manages foundations that help research against breast cancer in the United States and Europe.

He has been involved in bridging the gaps in curative treatment between those with means and those who are poor, has supported the opening of fashion schools in disadvantaged regions and supports more than one hospital in the United States.

Christopher Macsurak, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Private life

When he was just 25, he married New Yorker Ricky Anne Low-Beer with whom he had three children: Andrew (1969) who now works as a film producer, David (1971) who works in his father’s company and Dylan (1974) entrepreneur and manager of a chain of boutiques.

In addition to her California and New York home, Lauren owns a manor house in the Big Apple and a 17,000-acre cattle ranch in the town of Ridgway, Colorado .

Lauren has never been active in politics but has Democratic sympathies which she has shown on a few occasions.

In 1987 he survived the excision of a benign brain tumor.

To date, Ralph Lauren is one of the richest men in the world: according to Forbes magazine, the personal wealth of the American designer is around 7.2 billion dollars!

In 2014 he was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal.

Famous phrases by Ralph Lauren

We conclude our post discovering Ralph Lauren with his most famous maxims:

  • I don’t design clothes, I design dreams;
  • I am not a fashionable person. I’m against fashion. I don’t like being part of that world. It is too ephemeral. I have never been influenced by it. I’m interested in longevity, eternity, style. Not fashion.
  • You must be able to create something from nothing;
  • People ask me how a Bronx Jew could have created a preppy clothing brand. Does he necessarily have to deal with the social class you belong to or with the money? For me it is about knowing how to dream;
  • I like romance, glamor and realism. I think it’s a wonderful combination;
  • Fashion is change, youth, aspiration. It’s about what’s going on in the world, and a mixture of many things happening around us from different directions. And you must always be in tune;
  • Personal style is having a sense of yourself, a sense of what you believe in. And wear what you like;
  • I try to create my clothes in a world that is constantly evolving, and that makes me evolve too;
  • Classic for me and something timeless, which lasts forever. And what never goes out of fashion;
  • I don’t think women should look like costumes or even fashion victims. My clothes are for women who want to look sexy. But also intelligent;