While watching this YouTube video about Ralph Lauren I thought an article about its success was kind of mandatory. Lauren is an American fashion designer born in The Bronx, New York City, in a Jewish family of immigrants (in fact he changed his surname from Lifshitz in Lauren). His first fashion job was for Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant before becoming a salesman for a tie company called Beau Brummell, where at 28 years old he convinced the company’s president to let him start his line. That’s how The Ralph Lauren Corporation started in 1967.
The brand embodies a combination of rich American heritage, exquisite craftsmanship, eye for detail across all touchpoints across channels and high levels of quality in crafting and executing a distinct brand universe has provided the brand with a unique identity in the very competitive and ever-changing world of fashion and lifestyle.
Lauren is most well-known for the Polo shirt, obviously. The product lines of the brand cover all areas of apparel fashion, including men wear, women wear, women’s watches and jewelry, children’s wear, and sportswear. The distinct identity of a preppy, aspirational American look is so powerful that it is now defined as a key element of American fashion. With a multitude of sub-brands under the umbrella brand catering to the needs of various market segments, the brand has indeed become one of the strongest fashion brands in the world.
The influence of its founder’s personality on its products is evident in the emergence of the famous “Polo Bear”. The story goes that Jerry Lauren, Ralph’s brother and head of the menswear division at the company, was an avid collector of Steiff stuffed bears. In 1990, a tradition was started wherein colleagues presented a Steiff bear version of both Jerry and Ralph to each of them as a birthday gift. The bear was dressed preppy style, just like how Jerry Lauren dressed at the time. This preppy-dressed bear later became a brand mascot and made its way into stores as both the actual teddy “Preppy Bear”, and as a design icon that frequently started appearing on the brand’s products.
Lauren is famous for his controversial opinions on fashion, which are epitomized in his quotes – “I am not a fashion person. I am anti-fashion. I am interested in longevity, timelessness, style”.
The brand architecture
Lauren always had a long-term vision in shaping its product portfolio. The current portfolio includes:
- Polo Ralph Lauren is the first complete line of men’s Polo shirts, sportswear and tailored clothing. Launched in 1968, it is the oldest brand in the portfolio.
- Ralph Lauren Collection is Ralph Lauren’s highest-end brand launched in 1971. Timeless and sophisticated, it is a line of women’s clothing.
- Polo Golf: Launched in 1987, Polo Golf combines Ralph Lauren’s love for sport and a luxury lifestyle.
- Polo Sport: Launched in 1992, this is Ralph Lauren’s line of high-performance activewear, targeted at athletes and fitness junkies.
- Double RL (RRL): This brand was named after Ralph Lauren and his wife Ricky’s ranch in Colorado. It was launched in 1993 and offers rustic-styled.
- Ralph Lauren Purple Label: This is the upscale couture line of Ralph Lauren that was launched in 1994.
- Lauren by Ralph Lauren: This was Ralph Lauren’s line of women’s clothing priced at a more accessible point.
- Ralph Lauren Golf, RLX and RLX Golf: These collections were launched in 1998 and offers ultra-modern, graphic, performance-driven golf apparel.
- Club Monaco: This Canadian-based specialty retailer which sells designer lookalike casual apparel for both men and women was acquired by Ralph Lauren in 1999.
- Pink Pony: Established in 2000, the Pink Pony campaign is a global initiative that was set up to show support for cancer victims.
- Polo Ralph Lauren Children is subdivided into Boys (sizes 2-7 and 8-20), Girls (2-6X and 7-16), Big Kid, Little Kid and Baby (Boy and Girl).
- American Living: launched in 2008, it was bought over by Ralph Lauren. The brand is available at department stores Macy’s, Belk and JCPenney.
- Ralph Lauren Watches and Fine Jewelry: Launched in 2009, the Ralph Lauren Watch & Jewelry Co. introduced a premium collection of timepieces that are inspired by the image of prestige and sophistication.
- Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren: launched in 2011 offers mainly denim-based and casual apparel.
- Chaps: This brand is similar to the Lauren by Ralph Lauren brand, and offers casual sportswear and dresses at a slightly lower price point.
- Home, Pet, Fragrance and Restaurants
So Lauren has been able to create an empire, with loads of obstacles and ups and downs. I must say that I learned a lot in his history. For sure he has been forward-looking and with a spark of genius, but he never gave up. Honor to him.