fashion designer, businessman, philanthropist
born October 14, 1939
Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz) is an American fashion designer, philanthropist, and businessman with Jewish-Russian roots, famous for creating the Ralph Lauren Corporation clothing company and turning a tie shop into a global multi-billion-dollar giant.
Ralph Lauren: Selling The Fashion Dream
Ralph Lauren was born in the Bronx NYC, on October 14, 1939, to Fraydl and Frank Lifshitz, poor Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Pinsk, then Soviet Union and now Belarus.
Later in life, commenting on allegations that he changed his name to hide his Jewish heritage, he explained that "my name had 'shit' in it ... and you can imagine how difficult this made my life at school".
Lauren attended the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy, where he, striving for a better life (he always said he wanted to become a millionaire), would sell ties to his classmates. Later he went to Baruch College and studied business, but dropped out after just two years to enlist into the U.S. Army, then work as a sales assistant at Brooks Brothers, and, finally, start his own tiny business, selling self-made wide ties from the cheapest rented office in the Empire State Building he could afford...
On December 20, 1964, Lauren married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer. To get the blessing from the parents, he had to conceal from them the fact that his fiancee was only half Jewish and had a gentile mother. They had three children: Andrew, a film producer and director; David, an executive at Ralph Lauren Polo; and Dylan, the owner of the largest candy store in America, the Dylan's Candy Bar.
Big success came when Neiman Marcus liked his model and bought 1200 ties from Lauren. Several months later, in 1967, he, having gained financial backing from Norman Hilton, opened his own necktie store, selling his own models under his now-famous trademark "Polo".
In the 70s he tried his luck in menswear and produced several extraordinarily popular lines of clothes under the Polo brand. Also, during his time he created some of the first women's lines of businesswear, based, ironically, on men's business suits! For his designs, he was awarded the prestigious COTY Award. Even more, he was contracted to provide clothing for the movie The Great Gatsby and for the 1977 film Annie Hall.
In 1987 Lauren was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, underwent a surgery and recovered completely!
Thirty years later, Ralph Lauren had over 35 boutiques across the United States, and his fashion empire's turnovers were in the billions of US dollars. Having achieved wealth, he used it to make all of his childhood dreams come true. For example, he is the proud owner of over 70 of extremely rare and horrifyingly expensive automobiles, including three McLaren F1s (one of them - an ultra-exclusive LM modification), a 1962 Ferrari GTO, a Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, and the "Black Prince" (the one and only 1930 Mercedes-Benz CountTrossi SSK). These beautiful examples of car design were even exhibited at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts!
Lauren never forgot about those less fortunate: he is the founder of the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University, of the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation and of the Pink Pony Fund, a worldwide initiative in the fight against cancer.
For his contribution to fashion and his charitable work, in 2010, Lauren was declared Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and in 2014 was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal.
"Selling a Dream of Elegance and the Good Life", Time, September 1, 1986.
Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren" - Michael Gross
"Ralph Lauren Forbes". Forbes.com. September 2012.
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