Date of Birth
October 14, 1939
Place of Birth
The Bronx, New York
Born to Russian immigrant parents Frank and Frida Lipschitz, Ralph’s fashion sense was always apparent, even at an early age. Determined to look stylish, he saved up the money he earned after school to buy expensive suits, appreciating the quality and image that these garments gave him. Much of his early fashion education was gained from trips to the cinema and from Esquire magazine, with Katherine Hepburn and the Duke of Windsor becoming his idols.
When Ralph was 16, he and one of his older brothers grew tired of people making fun of their surname of Lipschitz, and so decided to change it to Lauren.
After leaving high school, Ralph took business classes at the City College of New York, dropping out after two years. He then entered the US army in 1962, leaving in 1964 and marrying Ricky Low-Beer.
After landing a job as a glove salesman, he then moved on to selling ties at A. Rivetz & Co., which ultimately led to the fashion empire he leads today. He began designing his own ties, and opened his first shop in 1967. Lauren’s ties were made from colourful Italian silk, and were almost twice as wide (and expensive) as standard ties, becoming an immediate success. He founded his company ‘Polo Fashions’ in 1968, choosing the name to reflect a sense of power, style and intrigue, and launched his range of menswear. This line, with its preppy English-tweed style, was soon adopted by the fashionable young Ivy League men, as it provided a look that was more interesting than the standard suit, but less radical than the alternative psychedelic hippie designs.
In 1971, Lauren opened his first store and soon launched his first women’s line. He designed the wardrobe for The Great Gatsby, and Diane Keaton’s slouchy, tomboyish clothes in Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall. Both designs inspired a demand from the public for similar styles.
The chic, preppy look of his designer collections is now complemented by the whole range of sportswear, casualwear accessories, luggage, eyewear, home furnishings and fragrances. However, Lauren sells much more than clothes and home furnishings; he sells a lifestyle image of sophistication, class and taste.
Polo operates about 275 retail and outlet stores in the US and licenses more than 100 others worldwide, and Lauren still controls almost 90% of Polo’s voting power.
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