What does the semicentennial celebration of the brand mean to you and your team?
As a company, we’ve celebrated so many milestones over the years, but 50 years seems like a really big one, and a time to reflect not only on where we’ve been, but where we’re going! That’s the exciting part for me and my teams, to know that together we’ve created more than a brand but, for many people around the world, a way of life.
You’ve witnessed the evolution of your industry up close and personal. What are some of the collective fashion moments you remember most fondly?
I have always been so proud when our industry comes together to support important causes beyond fashion. The Council of Fashion Designers of America, the organization founded by Eleanor Lambert in 1962, drove many of these causes to create a voice for American fashion. Our voice has impacted so many causes, but the one I am particularly proud of is the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative. My company and I created the name and the blue-and-black target symbol that was displayed on a simple white T-shirt and introduced at New York Fashion Week in the spring of 1994.
You are truly an American fashion icon. What do you hope the world can take away from your designs that speak best about
I’ve always loved the spirit of this country. America was a place people came to celebrate their independence, to fulfill their dreams for themselves and their families. That’s how I started out with designing a wide tie. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck to my vision and that tie was a commitment to myself to do what I loved and give it my all. It was exciting, and that tie grew into a whole industry—a whole world. I think the people that are drawn to my clothes are drawn more to a way of living that is optimistic, to things that have quality and authenticity and a timelessness that reflects their own individuality.
Your embrace of craftsmanship and tailoring is the stuff of legend. Are there any historical or contemporary figures who may have informed your approach and that signature Ralph Lauren aesthetic?
I am always inspired by the people I meet, the places I travel to, movies, music, stories, books! I have loved the personal style of many different individuals—some of them famous, some of them not, but it was never just the clothes they wore but who they were, their personalities, their character, the way they lived.
How difficult is it to create a strict vernacular for a brand and then stick to it? What was that process like for you?
The brands I’ve created over the years evolved out of my life and the things that I loved or the things that I aspired to have that I couldn’t find. I started with Polo for men and then a few years ago I felt it was time to create that same spirit for women. Though each brand has its own signature and personality, I always believed the same man that wore Purple Label would wear Polo or RRL. I feel that way about women, as well. The same woman who wears Collection would mix in pieces from Polo or RRL. I don’t believe in one can be too rigid in creating brands. There is an overall spirit in everything that I do that embraces all the brands.
You live an active life out in Colorado, where you have a ranch near Ridgway. What are some of your favorite activities?
Horseback riding, hiking, driving my cars and contemplating the incredible natural beauty of the surrounding nature and majestic San Juan Mountains.
How do you continue to evolve your style narrative that borrows from the region without ever appearing to trivialize it?
Even before I had a home in the West, I loved it. There was an authenticity rooted in the culture of the cowboy and living under that big sky that I was drawn to. I was inspired by the style of the cowboy—their worn-in jeans, chambray shirts, dusty cowboy boots and weathered hats—and a lifestyle that was touched by the Earth. When I first discovered the artistry of the Native American culture—the unique patterns and colors of their handwoven blankets and rugs, the craftsmanship of their baskets and pottery, the intricacy of their vintage silver Concho belts and handmade turquoise jewelry—it became an enduring source of inspiration for me personally and for many of my collections for men, women and the home.
Can you predict what the future of fashion will look like? What are your thoughts on how the formula for success in fashion has changed over the years?
I’ve always believed in style, not fashion. Fashion is of the moment, therefore impossible to predict. Style for me is defined by the woman or man who create it for themselves, therefore it’s real and authentic, and that’s what’s always inspired me. Our new CEO, Patrice Louvet, and I were talking about what business we’re in. Patrice said he thought we were in the ‘dream business.’ I think as long as you can inspire people to dream of a better life through quality and an authentic kind of style, then you’ll be successful. I think that’s what we’ve done for 50 years and we’re still here.
You’ve had some time to develop your particular look and language. If you were to start from scratch today do you think your brand would look and feel exactly as it does or would it reflect a different Ralph?
I think you know the answer to that! My vision has never changed and that’s why I think I’m still around and will be for the next 50 years.
If you could go back to speak with yourself at the beginning of your career, what would you say?
Stay true to yourself
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