FIT Oral History: Ralph Lauren

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FIT Oral History: Ralph Lauren


DATE INTERVIEWED: September 5 and 25, 1990
SUMMARY: Mildred Finger interviews Ralph Lauren about his start in the fashion business and how his career grew, and about his family.
BIOGRAPHY: Ralph Lauren was born in the Bronx, New York, to Jewish immigrants, Frieda (Cutler) and Frank Lifshitz, and is the youngest of four siblings—two brothers and one sister. His work in the fashion industry started in high school at a job working with menswear at Alexander's, followed by Allied Stores at age 19 as an assistant buyer. He then worked at Brooks Brothers followed by spending six months in the army reserves during the Korean War, around 1962. Upon returning to the US, he worked for Weiner's Gloves, and in 1967 moved on to work as a salesman at a tie company called Rivetz. Lauren soon became inspired to create his own line of ties, and convinced the company Beau Brummell to hire him as a designer. He named his first line he made for Beau Brummell, "Polo," which was inspired by images of polo players from the 1930s. Working out of a single "drawer" from a showroom in the Empire State Building, Lauren made deliveries to stores himself. In 1971, Norman Hilton provided Lauren with financial backing to start his own company and expand into more product. His company "Polo-Ralph Lauren" was thus launched, making him one of the the first menswear designers who created a cohesive collection. The first full women's collection was launched the following year. 1971 also marked the opening of Ralph Lauren's store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, the first freestanding store for an American designer. Lauren has been married to Ricky Ann Low-Beer since 1964, and together with her, they have three children, Andrew, David, and Dylan. David Lauren became the Executive Vice President of Global Advertising, Marketing, and Communications at Ralph Lauren Corporation.


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