Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz on October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive. He is most notable for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz in The Bronx to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Belarus: Fraydl (Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter.
From a young age he started working after school to earn money to buy suits. A four-year younger Calvin Klein, lived in the same Bronx neighborhood but it is not known if they ever met while living there.
Lauren attended the Salanter Academy Jewish Day School followed by MTA (now known as the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy), before eventually graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957.In MTA Lauren was known by his classmates for selling ties to his fellow students. In his Clinton yearbook he stated under his picture that he wanted to be a millionaire.
He went to the Baruch School of Business and Civic Administration of the City College of New York (of the City University of New York) where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army. After his discharge in 1968, he married Ricky Low-Beer. He did not attend fashion school, but worked for Brooks Brothers as a salesman. In 1967, with the financial backing of Norman Hilton, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label "Polo". He later purchased the name from Hilton. Lauren has since grown his fashion empire into a billion-dollar business.
In 1970 Ralph Lauren won the City Award for his menswear line created exclusively for teen heartthrob Andrew McLean. Around that same time he released a line of women's suit that were tailored in a classic men's style, which was when the first Polo emblem was seen. It was on the cuff of the women's suit.
Ralph Lauren released Polo's famous short sleeve mesh shirt with the Polo logo in 1972. It came out in 24 colors. It became an overnight classic. He also gained recognition for his design after he was contracted to provide clothing styles for the movie The Great Gatsby.
Polo Ralph Lauren store on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago
In 1984 he transformed the Rhinelander Mansion, former home of the photographer Edgar de Evia and Robert Denning, into the flagship store for Polo Ralph Lauren. This same year de Evia photographed the cover feature story for House & Garden on the Lauren home Round Hill in Jamaica, which had formerly been the home of Babe and Bill Paley.
On June 11, 1997, Polo Ralph Lauren became a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RL.
Purple Label: Launched in 1994, this is Ralph Lauren's signature, and highest end, men's line, with classic, traditionally British styling. It includes ready-to-wear suits and sportcoats (made by St. Andrews and Cantarelli), dress shirts, sportswear, accessories, and footwear, as well as a collection of made-to-order suits, sportcoats, shoes (made by British company Edward Green), dress shirts, exotic skin luggage, small leather goods, and jewelry. Purple Label is only available in Ralph Lauren stores, the company's online store and high-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Black Label: Black Label for men tends to have a more modern, Italian cut to its suits, sportcoats (made by Raffaele Caruso), dress shirts, and sportswear, with higher armholes and a slimmer silhouette. Black Label was started in 2005 and is also only available in flagship Ralph Lauren stores, the company's online store and selected high-end department stores.
Polo Ralph Lauren: His first brand for men, and also the most widely available. This 'blue label' line spans from tailored clothing (ready-to-wear and made to measure), sportswear, accessories (including luggage) to small leather goods. Available at many department and specialty stores as well as Ralph Lauren stores and the company's online store.
Polo Golf: A sporty collection catering to golfers since 1987 and often featuring celebrity golfers as advertising models (see Sports sponsorship below).
Polo Jeans Co.: Denim inspired line. Now discontinued in the US.
Polo Denim: A 2007 relaunch of the Polo Jeans Co. line of 1996. Denim basics available online and in department stores.
Lauren Ralph Lauren: Basics and suiting. Divided into Green and Silver (slightly slimmer cuts) Label. Available primarily through department and outlet stores, and not at RL stores or ralphlauren.com.
Ralph by Ralph Lauren: Exclusively available at Dillard's stores, this label offers suits, sport coats, dress trousers and suit vests.