What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name “Ralph Lauren”? Maybe a zero to hero struggle story, or maybe a luxury suit, a polo T-shirt. Fashion dominates this name and the man behind it is considered one of the most outstanding designers of our generation. Sitting at the helm of this fashion empire for over half a century now, Ralph Lauren has turned the face of fashion design and entrepreneurship in general to a whole new level.
Born in the Bronx, New York City in 1939, Lauren grew up in a working-class neighborhood. Although he did not receive formal design training, he was royally steeped in fashion retailing, having worked for New York department stores in his youth. While selling ties at Brooks Brothers, he studied business at night school. It may well have been during his sales stint at Brooks Brothers, the conservative stylish menswear store, that Lauren met the “muse of tradition” which would earn him a formidable position in fashion history.
In 1967, he took a $50,000 loan from a clothing manufacturer, Norman Hilton and opened a necktie store under the label ‘Polo’. He obtained the rights to use the emblem ‘Polo’ from Brooks Brothers.
In 1971, he expanded his small business and opened a Polo boutique in the pricey, Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills. In 1972, he released his trademark short-sleeve shirt with the Polo logo and also unveiled his first Ralph Lauren collection for women. He gained even more recognition after he designed a whole clothing line for the movies, ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Annie Hall’. In 1984, he established his first flagship store, ‘Polo Ralph Lauren’ by converting the Rhinelander Mansion into his store. In 1997, Ralph Lauren Corporation became a public company and floated on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ‘RL’.
In 2000, he signed a revolutionary 30-year deal with NBC associates to sell his fashionable ‘lifestyle’ on social media, in print and on television.
Apart from his involvement in the world of fashion, he established charitable organizations, the ‘American Heros Fund’ that provides subsidies to children whose parents perished in the September 11 attacks and the ‘Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention’, in the year, 2003.
By 2007, Ralph Lauren had established over 35 boutiques in 23 locations, around the United States.
Quick question; what do you think a popular fashion house make at the end of each year in revenue? Well it is for a fact that in 2014 the company has a revenue of a whooping 7.6 billion dollars. This is due to the many shops the company has set up and also the large range of products that this company makes. In 2014 they made a cool $7.6 billion in terms of revenue.
One of the secrets of Lauren’s success lay in his obsession with detail, always checking product quality and maintaining tight control over the brand image he crafted so carefully. This enabled him to leverage the Polo/Ralph Lauren brand with over 25 lucrative licensing contracts, as well as introduce sub-brands such as Polo Sport (in 1994) targeted to a younger, more active adult.