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Ralph Lauren: Upscale Classics

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Ralph LaurenWhen in the late 60-s Ralph Lauren, then a sales assistant at Brooks Brothers, was tired of selling other people's brands and wanted to create his own, he decided to start with a tie. «I had no idea how to design ties. I didn't know a thing about the fabrics and patterns, but I knew how to sell, and I knew that quality is above all».

Since the early days of the new brand and so far, it is the quality that determines the trends of its development and corporate philosophy. It all started with neckwear. At that time, the fashion was all about narrow ties of neutral subdued colors, but he successfully shattered that tradition with colorful, opulent trendy ties. He guessed right; his ties were instantly popular: in 1968, Ralph Lauren has designed his first collection, and a year later the company opened its first boutique on Manhattan.

And all this is despite the fact that the small initial capital was spent entirely on the production of the first designer collection. Three years later, in 1971, Ralph Lauren introduced his women's line, which developed into four lifestyle groups: collection, classics, country, and active. The brand was developing frantically.

Throughout the 70-ies, the Ralph Lauren Company opened boutiques in all American states. In 1972, he launched a menswear line, Polo, offering styles that were refined, a mix of English classic and traditional American, and conveyed the image of landed gentry to a society that had little use for class, but enormous use for money. In 1981, the brand went global with its first international store on London's New Bond Street and became the first American designer store in Europe. In 1986, Lauren opened Polo/Ralph Lauren boutique on Madison Avenue in New York. The profits soared so high that the company could no longer lean towards the average consumer, but to work on the image of the brand and «shape» its own customers.

The Ralph Lauren brand was initially marketed as an upscale brand for high society. Beginning with the first ad (which was developed by Ralph Lauren himself) in the mid 70's, the company featured their clothes as a part of the lifestyle. In their advertisements and commercials, rich and successful people lived at the luxurious suburban villas, and traveled to most exotic spots of the world. When you look at Lauren's designs, you can't help thinking that this apparel must be worn by the Buckingham Palace dwellers. Audrey Hepburn, big fan of Ralph Lauren, once said that his evening dresses are designed for social events, while his home lines are suggestive of the evenings spent by the fireplace. In a word, Lauren's apparel is suitable for any occasion when you what enjoy life in all its manifestations.

Today, the advertising campaigns remain faithful to the initial concept: the Ralph Lauren clothing are comfortable for sailing a boat, spending a weekend in the country with your family, working and enjoying a cruise on the Mediterranean. Ralph Lauren wanted to define a unique and purely American style, and his apparel is a visual proof of his very successful searches. The Ralph Lauren brand is clearly associated with the American aristocratism and «old money» concept.

It is true - Ralph Lauren has instantly become a classic high society. Why experiment with original designs that can only be worn on the catwalk if one can create high-quality, beautiful, comfortable clothing that people would be happy to wear every day? The best things are worth the big money.

Ralph Lauren signature style developed as a mixture of nonchalant elegance and preppy chic. His costuming for the films The Great Gatsby (1973) and Annie Hall (1978) influenced the way millions dressed. Modestly describing his work, Lauren stated: «I believe in clothes that last, that are not dated in a season. The people who wear my clothes don't think of them as fashion». Lauren's vision was to represent timeless American style with a dash of British elegance and the comfort of natural fibers. For inspiration, he sometimes based collections on themes such as African safaris, Indian princesses, rugged westwear, bohemians in Paris, or Russian revolutionaries. His mix of tweeds, velvets, chiffon, and silks exuded a nonchalant elegance.

Like any classics, Ralph Lauren's clothing is beyond time. Meanwhile, the meticulous Forbes magazine rates the annual income of the great designer and concludes that no one in the world can outsell Ralph Lauren. In 1992 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of American Fashion Designers, and a tribute for 25 years of impact on American style from the Woolmark Awards. The Council of Fashion Designers later elected him Designer of the Year in 1996. In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) named Lauren a «fashion legend» to celebrate his 40 years in fashion. This title was awarded for the first time in twenty-five years, and the Council unanimously decided that no one deserves this title more than Ralph Lauren who created the American fashion. And the world joined in the admiration for his talent and shared his taste.

Inessa Hyder

 

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