Today, Polo Ralph Lauren – or Ralph Lauren Corporation – is one of the biggest names in the world of luxury clothing and goods, providing stockists across the planet with the finest in high-end men’s and women’s casual and semi-formal clothing. Polo Ralph Lauren, which is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, also specialises in fragrances, accessories, bedding and towels, and as one of the largest retailers in the United States, having recorded revenues of $4.2 billion in 2007.
But what of the man who founded his eponymous firm, Ralph Lauren? How did the company that bore his name come to enjoy the success in thefield that it did?
Ralph Lauren himself, who was born Ralph Lifshitz, founded the Polo Ralph Lauren brand in 1967 with his introduction of a line of men’s ties, which he funded with a $50,000 loan. Before the end of the decade, he had complemented this with a boutique store in the Manhattan department store, Bloomingdales. It was at around this time that Ralph Lauren was also behind the release of a line of women’s suits that featured tailoring in a classic men’s style. On the cuff of the women’s suit was a Polo emblem, which marked the emergence of the Polo Ralph Lauren name.
Polo Ralph Lauren gained its first stand-alone store, in Beverly Hills in California, in 1971, which was around the same time that it also released its first women’s collection. A decade later, Polo Ralph Lauren finally gained a global presence with the opening of its first overseas store on Bond Street in London. In 1997, Polo Ralph Lauren went public, and by 2007 it could lay claim to more than 35 boutiques in the United States. With the popularisation of the World Wide Web in the later 1990s, Polo Ralph Lauren set up its first website and online shop, www.polo.com, in 2000. The Polo Ralph Lauren website has since been relaunched as www.ralphlauren.com.
By 2009, there were some 163 full-price and 163 outlet/factory Polo Ralph Lauren stores being operated throughout the world, either by Polo Ralph Lauren itself or its licensing partners. The most significant Polo Ralph Lauren stores are situated in East Hampton, Chicago, Miami, Palm Beach, Tokyo, London and Milan, with the flagship store being located on New York City’s Madison Avenue.
The Polo Ralph Lauren name continues to go from strength to strength in the world of fashion, with a series of offshoot brands having been developed over the years. These include men’s lines such as Purple Label, Blue Label, Black Label, Polo Denim and Polo Golf, in addition to women’s lines such as Collection, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Lauren Jeans Co. Ralph Lauren is always looking to increase his position within both men’s and women’s fashion.
Another key part of the success of Polo Ralph Lauren has been in its sports sponsorships, with the company redesigning the outfits of line and court judges and ball boys and girls in its role as the Official Outfitter of Wimbledon in 2006. Polo Ralph Lauren has also previously been the official apparel sponsor of the US Open, and has sponsored US professional golfers such as Jonathan Byrd, Luke Donald and Tom Watson, further underlining the continued preeminence of Polo Ralph Lauren as one of the biggest designer labels in fashion.