Ralph Lauren (born 1939) is a household name. Jamaica has even issued a commemorative stamp (in 2004) featuring Lauren. The man and his brand’s logo of a polo player riding a horse is recognised by all. From a $50,000 loan in 1968, Polo Ralph Lauren’s humble beginnings grew into the internationally famous lifestyle brand which everyone knows today. Lauren was one of the first designers to extend his production of clothing lines to houseware and furniture. He was also the first of the megabrand American designers to set up shop in Europe, in 1981; the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation now has 280 stores in operation globally and its collections are divided into myriad different labels. In October 2004 in Boston the company opened its first Rugby store, a lifeŽstyle collection for the 18-to-25 year-old men and women. The Rugby line joins other Lauren’s collections. Purple Label (1994), Blue Label (2002) and Black Label (2005).
Underpinning Lauren’s designs is an unmistakable preference for old-world gentility. In fact, he has made the Ivy League, preppy style his own. “I don’t want to be in fashion – I want to be a fashion,” he once told Vogue magazine. And indeed, the Ralph Lauren look is distinctive, nowhere more purely expressed than in his advertising campaigns that always feature a cast thoroughbred models, often posed as if holidaying in the Hamptons.
Lauren’s entrance into fashion can be traced back to 1964 with Brooks Brothers, and then Beau Brummell Neckwear in 1967, where he designed wide ties. In the following year, the beginnings of what was to become a billion dollar brand took root. The Polo menswear line was launched and in 1970 he won the Coty Menswear Award; Lauren added womenswear to the brand in 1971.
He has been awarded the CFDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1993) along with its menswear designer (1995) and Womenswear designer (1996) prizes. Lauren is also involved in philanthropic activities. The Polo Ralph Foundation organises campaigns such as Pink Pony (2000), which supports cancer care and medically underserved communities.