Ralph Lauren, KBE (born Lifshitz; born October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer, philanthropist, and billionaire businessman, best known for the Ralph Lauren Corporation, a global multibillion-dollar enterprise. He has become well known for his collection of rare automobiles, some of which have been displayed in museum exhibits. Lauren stepped down as CEO of the company in September 2015 but remains executive chairman and chief creative officer. As of 2019, Forbes estimates his wealth at $6.3 billion, which makes Ralph Lauren the 102nd richest person in America.
Ralph Lifshitz was born on October 14, 1939 in The Bronx, New York City, to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, Frieda (Cutler) and Frank Lifshitz, an artist and house painter, from Pinsk, Belarus. The youngest of four siblings, he has two brothers and one sister.
Lauren attended day school followed by the Manhattan Talmudical Academy, before eventually graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957. He went to Baruch College, at the City University of New York (CUNY) where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years.
Lauren was one of several design leaders raised in the Jewish community in the Bronx, along with Calvin Klein and Robert Denning.
From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army and left to work briefly for Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant before becoming a salesman for Rivetz a tie company.
On December 20, 1964, Ralph Lauren married Ricky Ann Low-Beer in New York City. She is the daughter of Margaret Vytouch, and Rudolph Low-Beer. The two had met six months earlier, in a doctor's office where she was working as a receptionist and on alternate days teaching dance. She is the author of The Hamptons: Food, Family and History.
They have three children. Andrew Lauren (b. 1969) is a film producer and actor. David Lauren (b. 1971) is Executive Vice President of Global Advertising, Marketing, and Communications at Ralph Lauren Corporation.
At 28 years old, Lauren worked for the tie manufacturer Beau Brummell, where he convinced the company's president to let him start his own line. The Ralph Lauren Corporation started in 1967 with men's ties.
Drawing on his interests in sports, Lauren named his first full line of menswear 'Polo' in 1968. He worked out of a single "drawer" from a showroom in the Empire State Building and made deliveries to stores himself. By 1969, the Manhattan department store Bloomingdale's sold Lauren's men line exclusively. It was the first time that Bloomingdale's had given a designer their own in-store boutique.
In 1971, Ralph Lauren Corporation launched a line of tailored shirts for women, which introduced the Polo player emblem to the world for the first time, appearing on the shirt's cuff. The first full women's collection was launched the following year. In 1971 Lauren also opened a store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California; this was the first freestanding store for an American designer.
In 1972, the Ralph Lauren Corporation introduced a signature cotton mesh Polo shirt in various colors. Featuring the polo player logo at the chest, the shirt became emblematic of the preppy look—one of Ralph Lauren's signature styles. The tagline for the ad campaign was: "Every team has its color – Polo has seventeen."
In 1974, he outfitted the male cast of The Great Gatsby in costumes from his Polo line – a 1920s-style series of men's suits and sweaters, except for the pink suit which Lauren designed especially for Robert Redford's Jay Gatsby. In 1977, Diane Keaton and Woody Allen wore Lauren's clothes throughout their Oscar-winning film, Annie Hall.
The first Ralph Lauren fragrances, produced by Warner-Lauren, Ltd. were launched at Bloomingdale's in March 1978. Lauren, a fragrance for women on March 12 and Polo, cologne for men on March 26. This was the first time that a designer has introduced two fragrances – one for men and one for women – simultaneously. The company entered the European market, and went international in 1981 with the opening of the first freestanding store for an American designer on New Bond Street in the West End of London, England.
Ralph Lauren opened his first flagship in the Rhinelander mansion, on Madison Avenue and 72nd Street in New York City in 1986. Lauren re-created the building's original opulence with a young design consultant named Naomi Leff, with whom he had previously worked on Ralph Lauren Home.
In April 1987, Lauren underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor and made a full recovery.
The Polo Sport line was introduced in 1992 followed by over ten additional lines and acquired brands, including Ralph Lauren Purple Label in 1995 and Lauren Ralph Lauren in 1996.
On June 12, 1997, the company became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
The 98-seat restaurant RL opened in March 1999 in Chicago in a newly constructed building adjacent to the largest Ralph Lauren store at the corner of Chicago and Michigan Avenues. It was followed by the opening of two additional restaurants – Ralph's at 173 Boulevard Saint Germain Paris flagship store in 2010 and The Polo Bar at Polo's flagship in New York in 2015.
The company launched its website and online shop in 2000 as polo.com by RL Media (a cooperation between Ralph Lauren and NBC). In 2007, Ralph Lauren Corporation acquired the NBC share of RL Media and the web site was relaunched as ralphlauren.com. In 2008, Ralph Lauren Corporation launched a brand called American Living, exclusively for JCPenney. It was the largest cross-category brand launch in the history of Ralph Lauren and JCPenney.
On September 29, 2015, it was announced that Stefan Larsson would replace the company's founder, Ralph Lauren, as CEO in November. Lauren will stay on as executive chairman and chief creative officer.
Lauren has appeared on over 100 magazine covers including Architectural Digest, GQ, Forbes, Town & Country, TIME and Vogue.
Lauren celebrated the 50th anniversary of his brand in a fashion show at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park on September 8, 2018.
Lauren owns a 17,000-acre cattle ranch in Ridgway, Colorado and a 17,000 sq foot manor built in 1919 in Bedford, New York.
Ralph Lauren is well known as a collector of automobiles, with about 100 automobiles, some being extremely rare. He owns a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, two Ferrari TRs, three 1996 McLaren F1's (one of them an ultra-rare McLaren F1 LM), a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, a 1929 Bentley 4½ Litre ("Blower Bentley"), one Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Gangloff, a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, a Bugatti Veyron, a 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi" (aka "The Black Prince"), a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia. and a rare Lamborghini Reventón Roadster.
His cars have won "Best in Show" at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance twice, his 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic won in 1990 and his 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi" roadster won in 1993. In 2005 his collection was displayed at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Seventeen cars from his collection were exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 2011. In 2017, Lauren's now $350 million car collection took center stage during New York Fashion Week.
In 1989 Lauren co-founded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington D.C. in memory of the late Post fashion correspondent. He served as chairman and created the name and symbol for Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, a charitable initiative of the CFDA that founded in 1994 that marshals the goodwill and services of the fashion industry to raise public awareness and funds for breast cancer internationally.
The Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation established the American Heroes Fund following the September 11th attacks to allow Polo's 10,000 employees worldwide, as well as their customers, the opportunity to participate in the relief effort.
In 2003, Ralph Lauren supported the establishment the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in Harlem. The Center is a collaboration between Ralph Lauren, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and North General Hospital in Harlem, New York City.
The Star-Spangled Banner, the original 1813 flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the United States National Anthem, was preserved by a $10 million contribution to Save America's Treasures from Polo Ralph Lauren in 1998. The flag was then unveiled on Wednesday, November 19, 2008, in a new gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.
Ralph Lauren Corporation announced in July 2013 its commitment to restore the elite École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, one of the most influential art schools in France.
In 2014, the Ralph Lauren Corporation partnered with the Royal Marsden, the largest and most comprehensive cancer center in Europe, to develop a world-class breast cancer research facility. They opened the Royal Marsden Ralph Lauren Center for Breast Cancer Research in 2016.