As iconic designer Ralph Lauren celebrates fifty years in fashion, we reflect on how he built his empire and became the name in American style.
This year Ralph Lauren celebrates fifty years in the fashion industry. One of the longest careers for any living designer, Lauren has been an integral part of fashion in his home country of America, but also throughout the world.
The designer began his five decades-long career creating neckties, and went on to build a global business with a style that has become iconic. Known for his impeccable tailoring, it its perhaps Lauren that we must thank for creating the female suit and making it acceptable in today’s society.
While Lauren stepped down as CEO of the brand in 2015 he still holds the position of Executive Chairmen and Chief Creative Officer and is heavily involved in all aspects of the brand including the ready-to-wear collections that are presented bi-annually in New York.
He celebrated this milestone achievement with a celebratory show in New York Last month, which was attended by some of his closest friends, family and colleagues. An emotional show and celebration that saw the likes of Anna Wintour, Diane Von Furstenberg, Blake Lively, Hilary Clinton, Pierce Brosnan, Jessica Chastain, Oprah, Kanye West – the diverse list goes on – in attendance.
The collection was overwhelmingly received and it was a new direction for Lauren. This collection covered many genres – sporty, tailoring, smart, casual, all the elements were rolled into one to create something unique and original. Casual and sporty pieces were mixed with formal wear and layering was an integral part of the design.
The celebrations continued in Central park after the show, which saw an emotional Lauren thanking his friends and family for their support over the past five decades.
In 1967 Ralph Lauren designed his first range of men’s ties at just 28 years old. While working for tie manufacture Beau Brummel the company’s president let him pursue his dream of starting his own line. He worked out of a single drawer from the showroom at The Empire State Building in New York, and hand delivered all of his creations to buyers in the city.
He created his first line of menswear in 1968 and with hard work and a lot of persistence, his designs were taken on by Bloomingdale’s in 1969. They stocked his collection exclusively, making it the first time the department store had given a designer their own store within a store. After great success Ralph Lauren Corporation was launched in 1971 – beginning with a collection of tailored shirts for women.
A full women’s collection was launched the following year. Within a year Lauren opened his first standalone store in Beverly Hills and he launched the iconic POLO Ralph Lauren logo – making the label synonymous with preppy American style.
Lauren’s brand grew very quickly and by 1981 he had ventured across the globe to open two stores in London. Inspired by his love of sports Lauren developed his line with a strong focus on polo playing but he also became known for his impeccable tailoring for both men and women. By the early nineties Lauren had over ten lines including Polo Sport, Lauren Ralph Lauren and Ralph Lauren Purple as well as a huge fragrance business and Ralph Lauren home. The designer went from strength to strength as he became a household name.
In 2005 it was announced that Stefan Larsson would replace Ralph Lauren as the company’s CEO but Ralph Lauren continued to hold the position of Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer. Larsson was replaced two years later by Patrice Louvet and Lauren continues even to today to play a significant role in the creativity and strategy of his company. He celebrated his fifty year millstone not only with the collection but also with a book about his life and career. Ralph Lauren: 50 Years of Fashion highlights some of his greatest moments in the industry.
TIMELINE OF RALPH LAUREN CORPORATION
1967: Ralph Lauren designs men’s ties while working for a men’s suit manufacturer.
1968: Lauren designs his first menswear collection which is then sold exclusively at Bloomimgdale’s, New York.
1971: Ralph Lauren Corporation was launched.
1974: Ralph Lauren dresses the male cast of the film Great Gatsby. The cast wore pieces from the POLO
Ralph Lauren line and the designer customer-made the pink suit worn by Robert Redford.
1977: The iconic Ralph Lauren Polo shirt launched in a selection of colours.
1978: Ralph Lauren fragrances were unveiled and sold exclusively at Bloomingdale’s. there were two fragrances – Lauren for women and Polo for men.
1981: The company went international for the first time, opening two stores in London.
1986: Ralph Lauren opens his first flagship store on New York’s Madison Avenue.
1997: Ralph Lauren Corporation becomes a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
1999: The first Ralph Lauren restaurant was opened in Chicago.
2000: Ralph Lauren corporation launched its website and online shopping facilities.
2008: Ralph Lauren becomes the outfitter for the American Olympic team.
2015: Stefan Larsson replaced Ralph Lauren as the company’s CEO but Ralph Lauren continued to hold the position of Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer.
2017: Larsson was replaced by Patrice Louvet who took up the position of President and CEO.
2018: Ralph Lauren celebrates fifty years in the industry.