Photo By Arnaldo Anaya-Lucca – Arnaldo Anaya-Lucca, CC BY-SA 3.0, License
By Arabella Walton
Fashion designer Ralph Lauren (née Ralph Lifshitz) was born in 1939 in the Bronx, New York City. Lauren was raised by his parents, Frank and Fraydl. The couple were Jewish immigrants from Europe and had four children including Ralph. Lauren grew up in small quarters, having to share a room with his two brothers but had what he describes as a happy childhood.
As a teenager, Ralph was known for his unique sense of style. He was drawn to old-time elegance mixed with classic preppy style. He found inspiration in the personal style of Hollywood icons such as Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. Due to his deep love of clothes, Lauren needed a job to fund his passion and thus, got a part-time job to fund his interest in fashion.
After graduating high school, Ralph went on to study business at Baruch College in Manhattan for two years before dropping out after discovering business wasn’t his passion.
Lauren’s life changed drastically when he was drafted in 1962. He went on to work in the United States Army for two years before beginning his journey in the fashion industry. Upon his return from the army in 1964, Ralph married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer and the couple had three children. They’ll celebrate 56 years of marriage this year.
Lauren has always emphasised the importance of having a dream. Lauren once commented on how he was often questioned about what influenced his designs. He stated, “People ask how can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes? Does it have to do with class and money? It has to do with dreams.” Throughout Lauren’s business journey he has consistently proved that you do not need to come from money to achieve your dreams.
Ralph Lauren began his career with the simple goal of creating clothes he wanted to wear. He was unhappy with the style of men’s clothing at the time and decided to design clothes for himself. He officially turned his passion for fashion into a career with a sales job at the Brooks Brother in New York at the age of 24.
The Ralph Lauren Corporation began in 1967 when Ralph released his own line of men’s ties. He credits the success of the ties to their difference from other ties on the market at the time, describing them as “wide and unusual.” Ralph went from store to store selling his ties as well as selling them from a draw in the Empire State Building in New York City.
As his success began to grow, Ralph grew his passion further and launched a clothing line. He created Polo, a brand that not only sold clothes but also a lifestyle. When discussing the Ralph Lauren brand, Lauren stated, “The clothes that I design and everything I’ve done is about life and how people live and how they want to live and how they dream they’ll live. That’s what I do.”
In relation to his designs, Lauren described the style of the Polo clothing line as “tweedy English-American look with a French cut.” The 1970s were a prosperous time for the Ralph Lauren brand with Lauren introducing the women’s collection as well as the brand’s signature cotton polo shirt.
The Ralph Lauren Corporation has evolved from the Polo line and transformed into a true lifestyle brand, now offering Ralph Lauren products in four different categories including apparel, home, accessories, and fragrances.
During his career, Lauren has also designed the USA Olympic uniforms numerous times as well as designing the costumes for popular movies, including Annie Hall and The Great Gatsby (1974).
Ralph Lauren is one of the worlds most successful fashion designers with a net worth of over $6 billion. From his humble beginning as a young boy from the Bronx, Lauren grew into an international household name through hard work, determination and the pursuit of his dream.
Throughout his lifetime, Ralph Lauren has established himself as a philanthropist. During the 1980s, Lauren was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Fortunately, he was able to have the tumour removed before any damage was done and made a full recovery.
Likely as a result of his personal experience suffering from a brain tumour, the majority of Lauren’s charity support focuses on cancer research and treatment. Lauren co-founded Georgetown University’s Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research in 1989 and has since gone on to work with various cancer research charities such as the Pink Pony Campaign, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in Harlem and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
Although Lauren is truly worthy of the label, he dislikes being called a philanthropist as he views his charity work as “more coming from the heart.”
This story is a part of Bookipi’s new series about inspiring entrepreneurs. We hope this series will help motivate you to achieve your dreams like the successful entrepreneurs in this series.
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