As a U.S. fashion designer who has sold over half a billion dollars worth of clothing to date, Ralph Lauren is undoubtedly one of the most iconic American designers of all time.
Ralph Lauren has been referred to as “the epitome of blue-blooded fashion” and “one-part diplomat, one-part shopaholic,” but he’s much more than his high profile: Ralph Lauren is constantly growing in popularity and importance as an icon for style, design, and masculinity.
In 2011 when United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited North Korea she dressed in a Ralph Lauren dress that she’d bought earlier that day during her visit to the United States Embassy in Beijing.
The designer created a special line for the first lady in honor of her traveling to Asia.
Ralph Lauren’s first name is actually Ralph, although he was originally named after his grandfather, Ralph Lifschitz.
His childhood wasn’t too different from those of most children in 1940s America where he grew up in the Bronx: he was an altar boy, played football and baseball, and enjoyed photography classes. If you saw him today on the street, you probably wouldn’t recognize him as the iconic designer that he has become.
He seems less like a fashion designer and more like a businessman or lawyer with his grey hair neatly parted to one side.
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1. Ralph Lauren got his start making ties
From a young age, Ralph Lauren had an interest in fashion and “created a passion for fashion through the appreciation of fine tailoring.” He would make money by selling ties at 16 years old, which would allow him to buy the sport coats he wanted.
He was a regular customer at Brooks Brothers and bought many of his shirts from them, but he also enjoyed visiting Barneys “for the vibe” as well as buying things like French perfume. Although Ralph Lauren’s style has evolved over time, most notably with his penchant for Italian suits, he has been fond of wearing designer suits since childhood.
As his fashion interests grew so did the amount of time that he put into them. He attended the Parsons School of Design, which was the best design school in America at that time.
He got a job as a designer at Brooks Brothers and was soon promoted to head menswear designer. While working for Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren started learning about what made other people’s styles work and what made his own stand out.
He also started reading Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar because of their design critiques. By the time he was 28 years old Ralph Lauren had been named as menswear designer extraordinaire by New York magazine for his clothing line “Ralph Lauren”.
2. Ralph Lauren’s first name is actually Ralph (hence the name of his company)
Ralph Lifschitz is the name of Ralph Lauren’s father, and it was his father who gave him his first suit when he was a child.
The suit was made by a minor company called Brooks Brothers, but it made a huge impact on Ralph Lauren whose life would change forever just a few years later.
3. Ralph Lauren had no experience in fashion before going to design school at Parsons
Before attending design school at Parsons, Ralph Lauren was working as an account executive at Calvin Klein.
While there, he designed window displays for the store and set up their menswear department. While at Parsons School of Design, he worked for a French designer by the name of Andre Jacquemin.
He was also a member of the school football team.
4. Ralph Lauren’s famous Polo logo has a unique story behind it
The famous Polo logo that Ralph Lauren uses for all of his clothing lines, is actually based on his own initials.
It was actually his first wife’s idea. When they were first dating she asked him what his initials were and later referred to them as her “rabbits”.
They were also the inspiration behind his company name “Ralph Lauren.”
5. Ralph Lauren’s first store was opened in New York City
Ralph Lauren’s first store was opened in Manhattan on Madison Avenue, where the famous “pink store” is located today.
When the store first opened there were no employees to work there, so Ralph Lauren and his wife held down the fort by themselves.
They also personally answered every phone call. The business took off as more and more people started to buy Ralph Lauren clothing and soon other stores were opening all over New York City including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Palm Beach.
6. Ralph Lauren owns the “Ralph” name brand
The name “Ralph” is owned by Ralph Lauren himself. He made sure that the name was not trademarked, so he is able to use his own name for his clothing labels and designs.
7. Ralph Lauren partnered with Gennifer Goodwin to create a women’s clothing line
Although Ralph Lauren himself is most famous as a menswear designer, he has also worked on a women’s line called “Polo” that is targeted towards younger women.
The clothing is decorated with the same polo player logo that he uses on his men’s clothing. The line was designed by actress Gennifer Goodrich and makes extensive use of soft materials like cashmere and silk.