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How Ralph Lauren Created A World-Famous Fashion Empire

The American fashion designer Ralph Lauren is now worth an estimated $7 billion and is the head of a highly-exclusive brand that is among the biggest in the world.

The billionaire, now aged 84, became a leading fashion designer, but has very humble beginnings in an underprivileged neighborhood in the Bronx, New York.

Despite his humble life start, the designer always aimed big.

When asked as a child what his future aspirations were, his answer was to be a millionaire.

His early life

Ralph Lipschitz was born in October 1939 to Jewish immigrant parents Frank and Frieda Lipschitz.


His family would struggle to make ends meet, so Ralph engrossed himself in the fantasy world of the cinema to escape his boring life.

As a child, he would use his imagination to be a part of the fictional world of cinema idols like Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. 

It was this imagination helped Lauren become so successful in the fashion industry.

The name Ralph Lauren came about in sad circumstances, after Lipschitz felt he had to change his name after years of bullying over the pronunciation of his surname.

Aged 23, he joined the US Army and served until 1964, before he took a job as a clerk at Brooks Brothers, a

In his late teens, he changed his name to "Lauren" after enduring years of bullying due to his surname. 

At 23 years old, he joined the US Army and served until 1964.

He then took a job as a clerk at the American fashion retailer Brooks Brothers.

The launch of his business

Ralph went on to work for Beau Brummell, a well-known tie maker.

In 1967, he convinced the company's CEO to let him design a line of ties – thus creating Ralph Lauren.

But it was a polo match he attended opened his mind to many ideas.

Many things caught his eye and inspired him, such as the horses, the leather, the silver, the high society, and the "tall blondes with big hats."

It was this that inspired the world-famous "Polo Ralph Lauren" brand.

Launching the company was a massive risk, as he had only a high school diploma and a few business classes.

It was too late to go back, so his next significant risk was designing wide, colorful ties in a time in which plain and narrow was the fashion.

His bold approach worked out in the end – he won over the department store Bloomingdale's and sold $500,000 worth of ties in year one.

Although rising to the top, he continued to work hard and expand even more.

In an interview, he said: "The things that I made, you could not buy. You could not find them anywhere."

The expansion

The business was solely menswear, to begin with, but in 1971 he launched his first tailored shirts for women.

That year, he also opened his first store on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills.

The famous cotton Polo shirt was launched in 1972, while his range of fragrances came out in March 1978.

In 1986 he opened a flagship store on Madison Avenue and another on 72nd Street in New York.

Then the iconic Polo Sport line was introduced in 1992.

Business was booming, and the company was traded on the New York Stock Exchange on 12th June 1997.

Current day

After many years of grafting and hard work, the designer is now 83 and has time to sit down and relax.

From dreaming about being a millionaire to becoming a multi-billionaire is a true rags-to-riches story.

He owns homes in Long Island, Bedford, Manhattan, and Jamaica, plus a 17,000-acre ranch in Colorado.

Lauren also owns one of the most valuable car collections in the world.

He once said: "For me, owning a rare and magnificently designed car offers a different kind of experience. You can enjoy the beauty of the machine and the journey it takes you on."

Image: Ralph Lauren

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