- AP/Jason DeCrow
Ralph Lauren has a long history of working with important American figures. The designer’s most recent credits include dressing first lady Melania Trump for the 2017 inauguration.
Trump wore a powder blue Ralph Lauren suit, which many compared to the pale blue suit that Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband’s inauguration in 1961. Ralph Lauren also designed the cream-colored suit that Hillary Clinton donned for the 2017 inauguration.
Ralph Lauren is a name synonymous with American fashion. His net worth is now estimated to be nearly $6 billion, according to Forbes. And yet, the story of how he built one of the largest fashion companies in the world from nothing isn’t quite so well-known.
Here’s how he amassed that wealth, and what he uses it for.
Ralph Lifshitz was born in New York City in 1939, the youngest of four by Russian Jewish immigrants. As a teenager, he changed his last name to Lauren and walked around his Bronx neighborhood wearing outlandish styles like army fatigues and tweed jackets.
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Source: O, The Oprah Magazine
After dropping out of Baruch College two years in, he enlisted in the US Army and served from 1962 to 1964. He then had a short stint as a tie salesman at Brooks Brothers and another, now-defunct tie company.
- Via Wikimedia Commons
Source: O, The Oprah Magazine
By 26, he was designing and selling his own neckwear. He put together “rags” and fashioned them into ties. He designed a fatter, European-style neck tie, making them “out of a drawer” in the Empire State Building.
- Wikimedia Commons
Source: O, The Oprah Magazine
At first, he found it hard to sell the ties. His first big break was when a buyer from Neiman Marcus told Lauren he had “been seeing them around” and ended up buying 100 dozen ties. Bloomingdale’s asked him to make them narrower and take off his label. He refused, and continued peddling his ties. Six months later, Bloomingdale’s ordered a case.
In 1967, the Ralph Lauren brand was born, and Lauren sold his ties under the Polo line in a separate store. Lauren had never played polo, but the sport was synonymous with the Ivy League-inspired aesthetic he had in mind.
In the early 1970s, Lauren won the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award, launched his first full fashion line, opened a stand-alone boutique for it, and debuted the Polo pony that would became synonymous with the brand.
In the full line was the world’s first short-sleeved collared pique shirt, complete with polo pony and available in 24 colors. It became a classic, and the style of shirt has been known as a polo shirt ever since.
- Facebook/Ralph Lauren
The Ralph Lauren name now spans the globe and is one of the most recognized clothing brands in the world. It does billions in sales every year and is synonymous with preppy Americana style with an instantly recognizable logo and name.
In 1997, Ralph Lauren Corporation went public to great fanfare, and it’s listed as RL on the NYSE. It had the most successful offering of a US fashion company until Michael Kors went public in 2011.
“I’ve never wanted to be in fashion. Because if you’re in fashion, you’re going to be out of fashion,” Lauren once said.
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Source: Esquire UK
Ralph Lauren is so engrained in American popular culture, its designs are often worn by the most visible women in the country. Melania Trump, Hillary Clinton, Betty Ford, Michelle Obama, and Nancy Reagan have all worn Ralph Lauren.
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In 2015, Lauren announced he was stepping down as CEO of Ralph Lauren Corporation. He remains chief creative officer and executive chairman.
Source: Business Insider
Lauren married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer in 1964. He is said to have proposed on their first date. The two have three children together.
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The oldest, Andrew Lauren, is a film producer and actor.
- Getty/Mireya Acierto
The middle child, David Lauren, serves as executive vice president of global advertising, marketing, and communications at Ralph Lauren Corporation. He also sits on the board of directors. In 2011, he married model and entrepreneur Lauren Bush, who then became Lauren Bush Lauren.
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The youngest, Dylan Lauren, took after her entrepreneurial father and opened Dylan’s Candy Bar, a chain of boutique candy shops located in several major US cities.
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Lauren is known for his classic car collection, which numbers some 70 cars and is estimated to be worth $200 million. Vintage Italian exotics from the 20th century make up the bulk of it, while there’s only one American car in the collection. He keeps it in a Westchester County, New York, garage that he purpose-built for storing the cars.
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Many of the cars are extremely rare, like this 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. Some of them are loaned to automobile museums around the world for special exhibitions.
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Source: The Telegraph
Lauren donates much of his considerable fortune to philanthropic endeavors — cancer research chief among them. It’s a topic that became especially close to his heart after he defeated brain cancer in 1987. He co-founded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University in 1989, and in 1994 helped launch the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign.
Source: The New York Times
His largest effort, however, is with the Ralph Lauren Corporation-affiliated Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation, launched in 2001. It donates money to various charitable causes.
In 2014, Lauren was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his role in preserving the original Star-Spangled Banner.
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Lauren is well-entrenched in fashion royalty, and hobnobs with the likes of Anna Wintour. He has an automatic invite to the star-studded Met Gala every year.
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Lauren was given the Key to New York City by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010.
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He owns an apartment on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, a home in the nearby suburb of Bedford, and a beach house on Long Island.
- Bing Maps
He also has a ranch in Colorado and a vacation home in Jamaica.
Source: Port Magazine