A young Ralph Lauren. Photo credit unknown.
The news of Ralph Lauren’s stepping down from the position of CEO of Ralph Lauren came to me late Tuesday night. Lauren, famously born Ralph Lifshitz of Bronx, New York, has served his company for 48 years as both creative and financial executive and is now passing part of the torch to Old Navy president Stefan Larsson as of November. While Lauren maintains that the introduction of his new CEO is not a “step down” for him but a step up into a more expressly creative role in partnership with Larsson, at age 75 it appears to be a bit of a proto-retirement move. No matter, at age 75 Lauren sits comfortably atop a company which revolutionized American fashion across global and demographic borders, a feat he alone can singularly claim. The fact that fashion has never totally embraced him is telling of the scope of his accomplishments. I find it difficult myself to even call him a fashion designer because it seems too small. Lauren’s vision for a distinctly American lifestyle is so vast, rich, and potent that it far surpasses fashion’s capacity for inspiring fantasy. He quite literally manifested Americanism into something that could be bought and incorporated into every aspect of an individual’s life, should they chose. He also created some of the most amazing campaigns for the multiplicity of labels under the RL umbrella—decades of his finely distilled vision of the American dream, a few of my favorites I’ve included here in deference the legendary Mr. Lauren.
(L) Ralph Lauren ad run in Vanity Fair, September 1985. (R) Cricket whites by Ralph Lauren, 80s.
Polo Ralph Lauren ad run in Vanity Fair, September 1987.
(L) Bridget Hall for Ralph Lauren. (R) Gisele Bunchen for Ralph Lauren Collection, Vanity Fair, August 1999.
(L) Ralph Lauren ad run in Vanity Fair, February 1988. (R) Ralph Lauren ad, 1989.
(L) Kristin Darnell for Ralph Lauren. (R) Ralph Lauren in a Ralph Lauren ad run in Vanity Fair, August 1987.
Ralph Lauren ad run in Vanity Fair, April 1989.
(L) Tyson Beckford for Polo Sport, Vanity Fair, August 1994. (R) Ralph Lauren Roughwear ad featuring Isabelle Townsend, 1986.
Cecilia Chancellor & Sarah Murdoch for Ralph Lauren Socks and Hoisery, circa 1990s.
(L) Ralph Lauren F/W 1989 ad featuring Kim Nye. (R) Ralph Lauren Hoisery featuring Isabelle Townsend, 1990.
Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington in Ralph Lauren for Vogue, shot by Arther Elgort, 1992.
Ralph Lauren ad featuring Kim Nye and Tyra Banks, 1993.
Bridget Hall for Ralph Lauren S/S 1995.
Penelope Cruz for Ralph Lauren, 2001.
Valentina Zelyaeva for Ralph Lauren Collection.