If you live on planet Earth, then you’ve likely heard of the name Ralph Lauren. But how much do you really know about his fashion empire?

Interestingly, before there was renowned fashion designer Ralph Lauren, there was Ralph Lipschitz. At the age of 16 years old, Ralph’s brother legally changed his family’s name from Lipschitz, to Lauren. Mr. Lipschitz grew up in a working-class neighborhood located in the Bronx (New York City, USA). During his youth, Lipschitz worked in various department stores located in New York City. While selling neckties at Brooks Brothers, Ralph began studying business at night school.

During this time, Ralph had also begun to create creating his own line of neckties. His wide, colorful neckties were a true fashion statement, as “stylish” neckties at that time were narrow and dark. Lauren’s neckties blended the sporty look of the affluent East-Coast of America, with British nobility.

The next year, Ralph created his first line of “Polo” menswear in 1968. Ironically, while America had rejected the aristocratic social structure of the UK, it wanted to create an aura of that same class-based society.

Then one year later, Ralph Lauren created his first line of women’s wear. There were four distinct lifestyle groups: Classics, Country, Active, and Collection.

In 1972, what would eventually become the signature piece of Ralph Lauren fashions was revealed: the mesh sport shirt. The shirt was available in a rainbow of colors. Today, that same timeless shirt is available in clothing stores throughout the world. When you think of Ralph Lauren Polo, the image of that mesh sport shirt is often the first one that pops into your head.

Throughout the years, Lauren has experimented with different looks and themes. These have included Southwestern and Safari themes.

He has also expanded the range of products that his company offers. Eyewear was introduced in 1974. Polo Boyswear and fragrances for men and women were first sold in 1978. Then four years later in 1984, Polo footwear was first available in stores. A varied Polo home collection was then introduced in 1983. Today, decorating products available under the Polo name include towels, silverware, drapes, bedding and rugs. You can even purchase Ralph Lauren potpourri! Today, there are Polo products ranging from scarves to jewelry, and from luggage to leather goods.

However, Ralph Lauren’s primary objective has remained to create the quintessential American look, through the clothing he designs. He created the costumes for two major films in the 1970s: “The Great Gatsby” (1973), and “Annie Hall” (1978). Ralph Lauren’s goal isn’t to produce “fashion” per se. Instead, his mission is to create clothes that could be described as “timeless classics.” Such clothing doesn’t go out-of-style from one fashion season to the next.

Some critics have argued that Ralph Lauren has blurred the distinction between the fantasy of living the life of the rich and famous, with the more mundane existence of everyday life. Nonetheless, Ralph Lauren’s net worth (2010) was listed in “Forbes” magazine, as $ 4.6 billion USD. So it’s apparent that more than a few people have bought into that vision!

Jason Thompson writes for DesignerSunnies.com.au and specializes in Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses [http://www.designersunnies.com.au] and other popular brands.

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Categories: Fashion