He is the fashion world’s reigning superpower – whatever aspect of the business that you are in within the fashion industry, everybody looks at Ralph Lauren as the blueprint for fashion success. We don’t think anyone since Walt Disney has been as successful in getting millions and millions of people to buy into their fantasy!
Showing his entrepeneurial flair from a young age, Ralph was well aware of the fact that he couldn’t win if he didn’t take the necessary risks. He was always pushing the envelope. Before he was Ralph Lauren he was known as Ralph Lifshitz, the youngest of four children who wore his brothers hand-me-downs. Born in 1939 to jewish immigrant working class parents, he grew up in the Bronx, NY and having had a painter father – by watching someone to whom aesthetics absolutely mattered, it would’ve only been a matter of time until his father’s influence would rub off in a young Ralph himself.
Taking inspiration from the fantasy world of movies back in the 40’s – Ralph admitted to being influenced by movies. “I was very influenced by a world that had a sense of dream, a sense of something else… and what I was influenced by in these places was the good guys! Not the corny guys but the man in the white horse. I had an integrity inside me of what I believed in, I did it honestly but I had a point of view. I was very strong.”
When he was in his late teens he opted for a name change to Ralph Lauren and as soon as he finished high-school – he began working as a salesman while taking business classes at night, although he never got to finish his degree…
In 1964 after taking a short stint in the army, the then 26 year old Ralph married his own muse Ricky Low-Beer, a receptionist he met at a doctor’s office who would later become a source of great strenght and inspiration to him.
Still looking for his place in the world, Lauren set his sights on New York’s fashion industry and became a salesman for Brooks Brothers and then a series of other neck tie manufacturers.
This exposure to the fashion world is what sparked Lauren’s vision. It was the era of plain narrow ties, when Lauren offered up a radical design concept which would later change his luck forever – as he came up with the idea of making colourful wide ties.
Striking out on his own, one of his first stops – the world famous Bloomingdale store. Not everything went to plan on his first try as former Bloomingdale CEO, Marvin Traub, placed an order but demanded Bloomingdale’s name on the print – which Ralph Lauren of course refused. But several months later after the tenacious designer chose to walk away from the offer he received at Bloomingdale, the store then CEO called him back to stock his ties – and as the old saying goes – was history.