Mission Statement

Ralph Lauren: the man who dresses America

"Look," Ralph Lauren says, "I'm in the fashion business, but I'm not in the fashion business." We are sitting by a king-size coffee table in his souvenir-strewn office as the impatient honks of yellow cabs echo faintly up from the New York street below. Alarm bells are ringing, too. What on earth is this Bronx-born billionaire personification of one of the world's biggest fashion brands on about? Even without a speck of due diligence I'd know that after 46 years Ralph Lauren is America's alpha-designer: 500-and-something shops in 80 countries, 23,000 employees, 15 (at my last count) separate sub-brands, revenues of $6.9 billion last year alone - and that mallet-swinging Polo player logo, for heaven's sake. If anybody is "in" the fashion business, then surely it is this diminutive (5ft 6in, according to Vogue) but wiry 74-year-old. ralph lauren polo outlet

Lauren expands. "What I think is cool is the expression of yourself. That's what's cool. Take you, if you'd walked in today wearing some 'outfit' then you wouldn't look like you. But your dark coat, your scarf around your neck, your shirt - you look like a writer. You look like you. You're classical but you're cool. And you're in the fashion business too. Your clothes are your statement about who you are. And I'm sure you thought it, right?" cheap ralph lauren polo shirts

Whoa, Ralph Lauren is interviewing me. And trowelling on the flattery as he does it. But he's also illustrating the idiosyncrasy that makes Lauren so appealing to millions of people who don't give two hoots about the cult of fashion. Where other designers try to impose an aesthetic on the wearer, Lauren indulges his fantasies, observes his audience then provides them with the tools to share the fantasy. When it comes to mustering a palette of reference he is highly promiscuous: Navajo print and prairie cowboy denim, aviation, safari, field sports, flappers, Tsarist Russia and the all-important Ralph Lauren trope, preppiness, are just a few of the themes he has mined over the decades. "What I do is make movies with my clothes. Movies via fashion." cheap ralph lauren polo shirts for women

Today, Lauren has chosen to come to the office he could comfortably have retired from a decade ago dressed in a melange of hiker, biker and cowboy: below a pale-purple down jacket he is sporting some fringed grey leather cowboy trousers and a pair of battered biker boots with a touch of tassel to them. This is not a uniform, though; he has happily appeared in public wearing head-to-toe Lauren-tailored tweed, matinee idol tuxedo jackets (teamed with jeans) and even a sarong. "I live different lives," he says, "but my product and myself, it's the same thing... Anti-fashion fashion, whatever you want to call it, but something that's meant to be timeless. Watch Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief tomorrow, next year, whenever - you would still want to be him at the end of it. And a woman will want to be Grace Kelly. That's timeless." ralph lauren polo shirts for women

Because so much of his currency depends on igniting fantasy, Lauren has never overly worried about reality. When he designed his first hit "safari" collection in 1983 he had never been to Africa - in fact he still hasn't. As he learnt when he first came to England, reality can be a disappointment. Growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s he developed a fondness for the Anglo-influenced preppiness of Brooks Brothers, where he eventually worked. He wore a lot of tweed jackets - on the days when he wasn't wearing army surplus. "So the first time I went to England [in the 1970s] I was upset. I thought I would see guys with moustaches in hacking jackets. Instead there were Italian suits everywhere and funny clothes in the windows. It was shocking. They thought the Italian stuff was better than what they had been wearing before. So I tried to bring back a lot of the clothes that people thought were old-fashioned and overlooked." ralph lauren polo shirts women


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