As famous American designer Ralph Lauren celebrates his 73rd birthday, fashion fans reminisce and celebrate his continuing effect on and within the industry. We’ll look at some of his most important accomplishments and contributions to the fashion world for each decade he’s been alive.
Although it doesn’t take much sketching, sewing, or creative skills, Lauren’s logo remains one of the most well-known symbols in the world of fashion. First appearing in ’72 on a polo shirt, it can now be found on anything from sweaters to printed pants, and in all sizes too. Possibly more so than any other logo and designer combination, this logo is synonymous with Lauren. The man riding a horse and lifting a mallet high above his head appears strong and forceful in the game of polo, just as Lauren in the fashion world.
Lauren is well known for his ability to seamlessly combine the prep of the East Coast with the paradoxically clean grit of an area more west, which leaves many thinking he is from a horseback riding mid-Western state, not the Bronx. This combination, however, has allowed the designer to become a prime example of “classic Americana,” along with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
Although he does deserve practically all the credit he’s ever been given, Lauren definitely owes some praise to the movie industry in the ’70s for skyrocketing his popularity.
Designing for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Great Gatsby in 1974 and then again in 1977 for Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, Lauren was able to reach millions of viewers and gain the necessary exposure to really solidify his empire. Impressively, Lauren accomplished all of the above without ever having received formal fashion training. While many just assume he attended fashion school, Lauren actually began by working at Brooks Brothers and taking on the clean, classic, and preppy aesthetic. However, Lauren’s mere two years of business education at Baruch College proved to be enough for him, since he’s now worth $7.5 billion.
If there was ever any doubt in Lauren’s ability as a designer, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have disproved it time and again; Ralph took home the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award in 1991 and the Menswear Award in 2007. When the CFDA opened a poll for the public to vote in for their awards, Lauren snatched the 2009 and 2012 Most Popular Designer awards, proving that it isn’t only designers who like him.
While many think Lauren is just some preppy guy who spends his days playing polo in the Hamptons, he has actually established numerous foundations for those in need. The Pink Pony Fund donates 10 percent of the purchase cost to breast cancer. Instead of just giving the money to research though, the Pink Pony Fund allows women who may not be able to afford treatment or screenings the ability to do so.
One of Lauren’s other charity efforts, the American Heroes Fund, raised money for 9/11 relief efforts and continues to give scholarships to those who were directly affected by the attacks. Additionally, Lauren recently made a huge impact on the fashion world by signing plus-size model Robyn Lawley. Lawley will be the first plus-size model to head a campaign for the company, which will open the door for plenty of other full-figure models with Lauren and countless other designers as well.
Many people are unaware that Lauren had a benign tumor removed from his brain in the late ’80s; clearly he has made a full recovery. It’s also widely unknown that Lauren served in the United States Army in the early ’60s and probably fulfills some type of “don’t judge a book by its cover” idea. Finally, many people assume Lauren isn’t actually his last name, but have no idea what it is. Ralph’s real last name is actually Lipschitz, but he decided that wouldn’t help him in the fashion industry, so he changed it.
Everything about Ralph Lauren, from his self-made empire to his good samaritan tendencies, revolves around fashion and deserves to be celebrated alongside his 73rd birthday.
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