Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ralph Lauren: The Brand, The Lifestyle

By Teneille Craig

Aesthetically, the purest translation of American aristocracy and refinement. The style embodiment of western nobility and sophistication. Surviving three decades of challenge, change and competition, lifestyle brand Ralph Lauren has artlessly become one of the fashion world’s most iconic style houses.

Debonair and eager, young tie salesman Ralph Lifshitz had inevitably grown exhausted of his product peddling days. With an infectious drive and a natural entrepreneurial intuitiveness he would create the first Ralph Lauren collection in 1968. “I didn’t know how to make a tie, I didn’t know fabric, I didn’t know measurements. What did I know?” Lauren was famously quoted as saying in a 1982 issue of Vogue. But, this early niche tie collection would soon catapult the Ralph Lauren name into Fashion’s Hall of Fame.

Within only a few short years, the Lauren empire would begin to swell at an unexpected rate. With such apparent little experience in manufacturing, shipping and financial management, these early years were also amongst the darkest. Nearing the brink of bankruptcy, a distressed Lauren would finally secure a strong handle on his ever growing empire by the late 1970’s. By the 1980’s, the line had been fully expanded into including complete collections for men, women and children. A home accessories line and fragrance line would also launch during this decade.

But, while the brand’s most apparent competition gained aggressive momentum during the 1990’s, today Ralph Lauren has victoriously remained at the forefront of traditional American fashion and conversely within the urban community. “I think Tommy Hilfiger exploited its popularity during its height and didn’t stay true to its core fan base.” says popular Hip Hop journalist and declared Polo loyalist Brian “B-Dot Miller. “Polo, to me represents a level of sophistication.” he adds. “Polo is an upper crust sport originated in the east and for some reason this guy from the Bronx encapsulated that lifestyle into his brand better than any other designer.” continued “B-Dot”. And while further research yielded similar praises, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent how the Ralph Lauren brand has managed to maintain his devoted customer base.

Hailed for never compromising its core identity, what the Ralph Lauren brand represents is the importance of consistency and integrity in the world of design. In its thirtieth year of existence what was once one man’s small collection of ties has spawned an empire worth more than $3 billion, over 12,000 employees, a charming magazine, a foundation benefiting cancer research and a little polo man that will be encrusted into our hearts forever.

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