- Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
When Ralph Lauren stepped down from his position as CEO from his iconic company on Tuesday, a surprising executive took over the brand.
This man is Stefan Larsson, who is currently the global president of Old Navy. Prior to helping Old Navy enjoy a huge resurgence, Larsson spent 15 years working for fast fashion empire H&M.
Critics and experts are now weighing in on what Lauren’s departure and Larsson’s appointment to the position mean for the brand. Given Larsson’s record of success for bringing brands like H&M to life, and resuscitating bands with poor reputations, like Old Navy, it seems like he could help the brand.
“Mr. Lauren believes that Mr. Larsson is the right guy to succeed him as CEO, and we expect Mr. Larsson to bring fresh perspective, clear leadership, and a product focus to the company, which we view positively,” a Nomura report writes.
“Succession at [Ralph Lauren] has been a key question over the past several years, and we are encouraged by this announcement as it removes significant uncertainty,” the report reads. “With significant transition already underway at the company, as the Ralph Lauren Corporation has also implemented a new global brand management organizational structure, we believe Mr. Larsson’s outside perspective on product and vision should prove quite valuable to the company.”
Larsson has a knack for updating dying brands – without sacrificing their essences.
“It’s really important to keep the core of the Ralph Lauren brand and all that it stands for, but also to freshen it up,” Liz Dunn, of consulting firm Talmadge Advisors, said to Bloomberg. When he worked at Old Navy, Dunn said Larsson “tried to get to the essence of what the brand meant to consumers and move from there – which probably is the right approach at Ralph Lauren, too.”
Fashion critic Cathy Horyn at The Cut believes that Larsson will face several challenges.
“A challenge for Stefan Larsson will be how to interpret luxury in a wealthy but increasingly listless and informal world, and how to pick and choose among Lauren’s fashions and symbols to find the real workhorses, in particular a kind of American exuberance,” Horyn writes. “It will be a shame if it just ends up as a pretty pony on a shirt.”
Horyn writes that Lauren’s departure sends a message to the fashion industry.
“If anything, Lauren’s decision to step aside is a reminder to executives and founders that maybe they don’t know as much as they think they do,” she writes.
Additionally, it serves as a cornerstone for the industry – “that the age of the individual founder-designer is ending,” as she puts it.
Investors are responding positively; Ralph Lauren shares – which have been down for the past year – went up yesterday.
Meanwhile, Lauren, will retain the titles of executive chairman and chief creative office. “When they start designing things I can’t understand, I’ll quit,” Lauren said to The New York Times. “But I don’t feel like I’m stepping back now.”