Ralph Lauren (born October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive; best known for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz in The Bronx, New York, to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, from Pinsk, Belarus: Fraydl (née Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter.
Ralph attended the Salanter Academy Jewish Day School followed by MTA (now known as the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy), before eventually graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957. In MTA Lauren was known by his classmates for selling ties to his fellow students. In a moment of spontaneity, when asked what he wanted to do in his Clinton yearbook he stated under his picture that he wanted to be a millionaire. During the summer, Ralph attended Camp Roosevelt (Monticello).
At the age of 16, Ralph's brother Terry (who was his guardian) changed their last name to Lauren to avoid the unfortunate obscenity reference Lifshitz has in English (although Ralph's brother Lenny retained the name). Apparently Ralph was teased about it in school. “My given name has the word shit in it,” he told Oprah Winfrey. “When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That's why I decided to change it. Then people said, "Did you change your name because you don't want to be Jewish?" I said, "Absolutely not. That's not what it's about. My cousins who lived in California had changed their last name to Lawrence. So I just thought, "I'm going to pick a nice last name"—it wasn't particularly connected to anything or anyone."
He went to Baruch College where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army. He did not attend fashion school, but worked for Brooks Brothers as a salesman. In 1967, with the financial backing of Manhattan clothing manufacturer Norman Hilton, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label "Polo." He later purchased the name from Hilton.
On December 20, 1964, he married Ricky Anne Low-Beer in New York City. The two met six months earlier, in an eye doctor's office where Ricky was working as a receptionist. They have three children named Dylan, David, and Andrew.
In 1970, Ralph Lauren won the COTY Award for his menswear line. Around that same time he released a line of women's suits that were tailored in a classic men's style, which was when the first Polo emblem was seen. It was on the cuff of the women's suit. Ralph Lauren released Polo's famous short sleeve mesh shirt with the Polo logo in 1972. It came out in 24 colors and soon became a classic. He also gained recognition for his design after he was contracted to provide clothing styles for the movie The Great Gatsby.
In 1984, he transformed the Rhinelander Mansion, former home of the photographer Edgar de Evia and Robert Denning, into the flagship store for Polo Ralph Lauren. This same year de Evia photographed the cover feature story for House & Garden on the Lauren home Round Hill in Jamaica, which had formerly been the home of Babe and Bill Paley. On June 11, 1997, Polo Ralph Lauren became a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RL.
By 2007 Ralph Lauren had over 35 boutiques in the United States. There were 23 locations that carried Ralph Lauren Purple Label, including Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Boston, Charlotte, Washington, DC, Chicago, Costa Mesa, Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Manhasset, New York, Palm Beach, Palo Alto, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Short Hills, and Troy. The Financial Times reported in its edition of January 2–3, 2010 that the firm had revenues of $5 billion for the fiscal year 2009. The article addresses succession plans and the future of the overall business.
In 2010, Ralph Lauren was decorated Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in Paris
Sometime in early 1987, he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. In April 1987 he underwent surgery to remove the tumor and made a full recovery.
As of September 2011, Forbes estimates his wealth at $6.1 billion dollars which would make Ralph Lauren the 173rd richest person in the world.
Ralph Lauren is also well known as a collector of automobiles, some of which are extremely rare. A large portion of his over 70 automobiles are held in his estate in Katonah, New York. He owns a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, two Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas, three 1996 McLaren F1s (one of them an ultra-rare F1 LM), a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, a 1929 Blower Bentley, one Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, a Porsche 997 GT3 RS, a Bugatti Veyron, a 1930 Mercedes-Benz CountTrossi SSK (aka "The Black Prince") a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia., a Lamborghini Reventón and the rare Reventón Roadster. His cars have won "best in show" at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance multiple times. In 2005 his collection was displayed at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. In 2011 17 prime members of his collection were exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
In 2009, Ralph Lauren apologized for digitally retouching a photograph of model Filippa Hamilton to make her look thinner. Hamilton also claims that she was fired by Ralph Lauren a few days later. Another model's photo was also digitally retouched adding to the row.
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