Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz on October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive. He is most notable for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz in The Bronx to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Belarus: Fraydl (Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter.
From a young age he started working after school to earn money to buy suits. A four-year younger Calvin Klein, lived in the same Bronx neighborhood but it is not known if they ever met while living there.
Lauren 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 his Clinton yearbook he stated under his picture that he wanted to be a millionaire. Other notables who attended this school include Burt Lancaster, Robert Klein, and Stan Lee. At age 16, Ralph's brother Jerry changed their last name from Lifshitz to Lauren (his brother Lenny retained the name Lifshitz for many years). During the summers, Lauren attended Camp Roosevelt (Monticello).
He went to the Baruch School of Business and Civic Administration of the City College of New York (now known as Baruch College) where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army. After his discharge in 1968, he married Ricky Low-Beer. He did not attend fashion school, but worked for Brooks Brothers as a salesman. In 1967, with the financial backing of 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.
In 1970 Ralph Lauren won the City Award for his menswear line created exclusively for teen heartthrob Andrew McLean. Around that same time he released a line of women's suit 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 United States. There were 23 locations that carried Ralph Lauren Purple Label, including Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Boston, Charlotte, Wisconsin Avenue, 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.
Sometime in early 1987, Lauren was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. In April of that year, he underwent surgery to remove the tumor, and made a full recovery.
Ralph and his wife, Ricky, have two sons and a daughter: Andrew Lauren (b. 1969 in New York City, New York), David Lauren (b. 1971) and Dylan Lauren (b. May 1974 in New York City). David is an executive at Polo Ralph Lauren and Dylan owns and operates an upscale candy store, Dylan's Candy Bar, at 60th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. Ricky appeared on the television show Martha on December 10 2006 and stated that her son Andrew is in the "movie business".
In 2003, Lauren's nephew Greg Lauren announced his engagement to actress Elizabeth Berkley. Lauren designed and created outfits for the entire wedding party (including Berkley's wedding dress) to wear. Berkley wore a silk sheath dress with pearled spaghetti straps while Lauren wore a white tuxedo jacket and a black bow tie.
Lauren is also well known as a collector of classic automobiles. He owns a Ferrari 250 GTO, a McLaren F1 GTR LM, and, more recently, a Bugatti Veyron among others. His cars have won best in show at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance multiple times. His collection was recently displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
As of 2009, Forbes Magazine estimates his wealth at $2.8 billion, which would make Lauren the 224th richest person in the world.