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1967 - Ralph Lauren establishes the Polo label with an instantly successful line of ties. In direct opposition to the narrow ties and conventional styles of the time, Lauren designs wide, handmade ties using unexpected, flamboyant, opulent materials. The ties quickly become a menswear status item. “A tie was the way a man expressed himself. I believed that men were ready for something new and different. They didn't want to look as if they worked for IBM. A beautiful tie was an expression of quality, taste, style.” Already interested in promoting a lifestyle with his ties, Ralph Lauren names his line after a sport that embodies a world of discreet elegance and classic style: Polo.
1968 - "I believe in a level of taste, a total feeling. It is important to show the customer how to wear these ties, the idea behind the look.” His exceptional ties are only the first step. Ralph Lauren is at the forefront of the men's fashion revolution in America. He is the first to merge classic American style with the refinement, tailoring and sensibility of European fashion. Lauren establishes Polo as a leading menswear company dedicated to providing a total look. “I never went to fashion school—I was a young guy who had some style. I never imagined Polo would become what it is. I just followed my instincts.”
1969 - “My customers were people who needed a change and didn't know how to do it—people who were looking for something new, but didn't like the transience of fashion.” Polo by Ralph Lauren establishes the first shop-within-a-shop designer boutique for men in Bloomingdale's in New York City.
1970 - “I'm not a fashion person. I'm anti-fashion. I don't like to be part of that world. It's too transient. I have never been influenced by it. I'm interested in longevity, timelessness, style—not fashion.” Ralph Lauren wins his first Coty Award for Menswear. (The Coty Awards became the Council of Fashion Designers of America/cfda Awards.)
1971 - “My wife has great style—she would go into boy's stores for shirts and hacking jackets, and people always wanted to know where we got those clothes. Her look reminded me of a young Katharine Hepburn, sporty and non-fashion—the kind of rebel girl on horseback with the wind blowing through her hair that people would look at. I designed the shirts for her.” The 1970s open with the introduction of Ralph Lauren womenswear. Lauren creates a daring line of men's tailored shirts for women—reinventing a classic men's look for women's style. The women's line also brings the birth of the polo player emblem. Originally on the cuff of women's tailored shirts, the now ubiquitous logo begins the Polo signature status combined with designer appeal.
1972 - Polo's original mesh shirt with the polo player logo is introduced in 24 colors. No other sport shirt offers the same combination of quality and variety. The shirt instantly becomes an American classic. Polo Ralph Lauren romances the preppy heritage of American menswear, creating what will be a major touchstone for the company in the years to come. The Polo mesh shirts—along with the oxford button-down shirts, chinos, tweed jackets, denim and chambray shirts—develop iconic status as the embodiment of the Polo lifestyle.
1974 - “Gatsby was this self-made man, and he was all about looking glamorous and wealthy and mysterious.” When Paramount Studios asks Ralph Lauren to design the men's costumes for Jack Clayton's movie The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, Lauren clothes the entire male cast in his current line, a 1920s-inflected series of men's suits and sweaters deeply influenced by the American icons Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The legendary pink suit that Lauren designs for Gatsby epitomizes 1920s style—and its popularity led to a major revival of Ralph Lauren's designs inspired by that time period. “My clothes are always visions of what I believe in. Someone once told me I was a writer, and it's true—I write through my clothes. They're whole stories, not just clothes.”
1975 - Ralph Lauren wins the American Fashion Award. Probably many other cool things happend at Ralph Lauren as well, but this is all Apparel Search has for you at the moment for 1975...
1976 - Ralph Lauren enters the Coty Hall of Fame for Menswear, and also wins his second Coty Award for Womenswear, the first time a designer has won awards for both menswear and womenswear in the same year.
1977 - Ralph Lauren enters the Coty Hall of Fame for Womenswear.
1978 - Ralph Lauren makes fashion headlines and captures the country's imagination with the launch of his Westernwear collections for men and women. Drawing on our American heritage and his own personal style, Lauren's Western looks are authentic and highly spirited—including rugged shearling vests, rancher's jackets, prairie skirts and fringed buckskin. Inspired by the spontaneous wit, solid design and romance of original Western clothes, Lauren creates authentic, impeccably made Western fashions. He is heralded as “the maverick who recaptured America for America” and starts a Western style stampede throughout the world. Ralph Lauren, who has always been attracted to and fascinated by the cowboy mystique, chooses to promote the Westernwear collection by appearing in the original Westernwear ad campaign, since it is so clearly related to his personal style.
1979 - “The multipage ads are like movies, broad strokes of excitement, multidimensional; if I could have made the models speak, I would have.” Polo begins advertising and catapults the brand into the American consciousness. Continuing in the spirit of the Polo philosophy that individual clothes are not as important as the lifestyle and the world they reflect, Polo pioneers advertising with little or no text, and, more importantly, a sweeping, cinematic scope. The original 20-page spreads, all in vivid color, revitalized and energized magazines with a pageant of seamless worlds and fascinating characters that consumers could relate to, follow and admire. Often using non-models in their ads (including Buzzy Kirbox, a surfer, and Tom Moore, an architect) in real settings, Polo establishes an advertising tradition that celebrates the entire spectrum of the American experience.
1980 - New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger states that the true design symbol of the 1980s was not Philip Johnson or Robert Stern—but Ralph Lauren. “Lauren has become a kind of one-man Bauhaus, a producer of everything from fabrics to furniture to buildings, all of which, taken together, form a composite, a fully designed life.”
1981 - The Santa Fe collection debuts. Lauren draws on the patterns and colors of the Navajo Indians and the American Southwest with concho belts, petticoat skirts, Indian patterned sweaters and blanket jackets. As with his Westernwear collection, Lauren captures the essence of the American cultural experience, forging a connection between Polo Ralph Lauren and the romance of the American West and launching a major fashion look with worldwide influence and appeal.
1983 - “This was a vision of how I would love to live. I wasn't just creating a sheet—I was creating a complete home, which could reflect the kind of world people wanted to live in.” The Ralph Lauren home collection debuts. Ralph Lauren makes history as the first fashion designer to launch an entire home collection. The luxurious line includes bedding, towels, area rugs, wall coverings and tabletop and table coverings, which combine to create a timeless, and truly American, home. In the following years, the Ralph Lauren home collection introduces expertly crafted furniture, lighting, carpeting, and in 1995, the Ralph Lauren paint collection. The home collection combines all the elements the designer is known for: product innovation, color, exquisite, authentic detailing and an exciting lifestyle approach to home products.
1985 - Ralph Lauren begins a partnership with the Telluride Film Festival with his sponsorship of the Abel Gance Open Air Cinema, a tradition that continues to this day.
1986 - “To me it's the most beautiful store in the world: the details, the world it creates, the mix, the textures…it's a store that has an emotional impact. I've watched so many people come into it—and be dazzled when they enter.” Polo Ralph Lauren opens a flagship store in the famous Rhinelander mansion on Madison Avenue at 72nd Street. Originally designed by Kimball & Thompson in the 1890s for a society matron who fell into debt during construction, the Rhinelander was never lived in; it was divided into retail spaces, and it slowly fell into disrepair for almost a century. When Ralph Lauren takes over the reconstruction of the Rhinelander as a flagship store, less than five percent of the building's original interior remains. The entire building is designed to re-create the classic opulence of the original mansion. This involves extensive research into what few original plans and physical evidence could be found, and creatively piecing them together. The results are stunning. The Polo Ralph Lauren store raises the bar of the retail experience. Shopping in the Rhinelander transforms the cinematic feel of Ralph Lauren clothing and advertising into a physical environment—and tourists come from all over the world for the thrill of shopping in the mansion. From the imposing architecture, to the dramatic, rich interior, to the quality of the sales staff, the Rhinelander mansion is more than a store, more than a museum—it is the ultimate retail experience. 1991 - Super Sale is initiated; the annual designer sale in Washington, DC, is sponsored by Ralph Lauren, the Washington Post and Vogue. The event raised over $3.5 million for research at the Nina Hyde Center. Super Sale continues until 1998.
1992 - Audrey Hepburn, one of Ralph Lauren's favorite childhood stars, presents him with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. A recognized leader in his field, Lauren is the only designer to receive the CFDA's four highest honors—the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award and the Menswear Designer of the Year Award, as well as Retailer of the Year.
1993 - “I felt that sports and fitness were going to become the fashion of the 1990s. People were feeling the need to work out; they were changing into wanting to live not as spectators, but as doers. That was extremely exciting for me—the rush of wanting to be healthy, the rush of being strong, active, full of energy, the sense of doing something physical. I was always athletic…I wanted clothes that would reflect that and fulfill that need, clothing that was developed with that kind of activity in mind.” The Polo Sport line is introduced as Ralph Lauren meets the national changing attitude toward fitness and health with an entire fitness lifestyle. At the same time, the first Polo Sport store at 888 Madison opens across the street from the Rhinelander mansion. Polo Sport demonstrates the authenticity of the product design by becoming the official outfitter of the America team for the America's Cup. Using the team in its advertising, Polo Sport raises national awareness for the underdog America team, who go on to win the America's Cup. Polo Sport line for women launches in 1996.
1994 - Ralph Lauren founds, with the CFDA, Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, an international awareness campaign that, to date, has raised over $10 million from campaigns in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Iceland and the United Kingdom.
1995 - Polo Ralph Lauren and Polo Sport the Fitness Fragrance become the title sponsors of the Polo Sport Race to Deliver, benefiting God's Love We Deliver, which serves hot meals to homebound people with AIDS/hIV. This commitment continues to the present.
1997 - Ralph Lauren receives CFDA's 1996 Menswear Designer of the Year Award.
1998 - Polo Ralph Lauren announces a corporate gift of $13 million to the Save America's Treasures Campaign to preserve the Star-Spangled Banner, which is housed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. In 1999, the Star-Spangled Banner Restoration Laboratory opens to the public, allowing the over 2.5 million annual visitors to the Smithsonian to view the restoration of the Star-Spangled Banner as it is occurring.
1999 - “The [Rhinelander] mansion had just opened, and we had a great party. When I left the party to go to dinner, I thought, ‘Where can I go now? That will keep my mood like this, keep me feeling good like this?' The excitement of retailing is that it allows you to bring your vision into diverse areas; the restaurant is another expression of that vision.” RL restaurant opens in Chicago adjacent to the flagship store, the largest Polo store in the world. The restaurant, a glamorous space, is designed with antique furniture and fixtures, and a private collection of photography, sketches and oil paintings from the Chicago Historical Society's Archives. The executive chef is Giancarlo Gottardo. The restaurant is a collaboration between Ralph Lauren and restaurateurs Nino Esposito and Genarro Vertucci of New York's Vico, Sette Mezzo and Sette MoMA. The restaurant marks a foray into new territory.
2000 “I knew I had to start Ralph Lauren Media—it belongs to a new world I wanted to know. Our goal here is to always stay invigorated, charged up, more exciting, stay young, stay contemporary.” Ralph Lauren Media opens the Polo.com Web site. For over 30 years, Polo Ralph Lauren has reflected the American lifestyle on a global scale—now Polo.com will transform the world of Ralph Lauren from multipage magazine ads and four walled retail stores into the dynamic full motion and sound experience of the Internet. Providing services, content and product sales to an increasing community of users, the Web site allows Polo Ralph Lauren to create a context around the products that have defined the Polo Ralph Lauren experience. Microsoft founder Bill Gates welcomed David Lauren to the stage during the keynote address at Comdex (Nov. 12, 2000) the largest gathering of information technology professionals in North America.
2001 - The Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation establishes the American Heroes Fund following September 11th, to allow Polo's 10,000 employees worldwide, as well as their customers, the opportunity to participate in the relief effort. Polo Ralph Lauren matched employee contributions dollar for dollar, also donating 10 percent of customer purchases at Ralph Lauren stores and on Polo.com during the month of October. The majority of the $4 million raised goes to establishing the American Heroes Scholarship Program, through the Citizens Scholarship Foundation of America, which provides college scholarships to children of the victims. Other beneficiaries include the Twin Towers Fund, the September 11th Fund, the Red Cross, the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children's Fund, and the New York Police Department Foundation.
2002 - Having started the company with 26 boxes of ties in 1967, Ralph Lauren celebrates the 35th anniversary of a now $10 billion global business that produces designer menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, home collections and fragrances. The media honors Ralph Lauren with cover stories in Time magazine (international), Town & Country and Architectural Digest; an interview in Oprah magazine by the queen of tv; the Vogue/vH1 Fashion Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
2003 - Discover the global world of Ralph Lauren by visiting Global.Polo.com. Polo Ralph Lauren launches Web sites, localized by country, to support its growing international business. The sites include fashion shows, local store information, company history, current advertising campaigns and its exclusive RL Style Guide.
2004 - In October Ralph Lauren launched Rugby, a full lifestyle collection designed for men and women ages 16 to 25. The line features iconic rugby shirts, polos, jackets, suits, dresses, outerwear and accessories. Rugby is fashion-forward yet grounded in Ralph Lauren's signature preppy style. The first Rugby store opened on Newbury Street in Boston on October 23, 2004.
2005 - On March 14, 2005, Polo Ralph Lauren and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) sign a four year global partnership making Polo Ralph Lauren the official apparel sponsor of the US Open through 2008. As part of the partnership all on-court ball persons and officials will be dressed in specially designed Ralph Lauren apparel. “Polo Ralph Lauren will bring a new dimension of style to the US Open,” says Arlen Kantarian, chief executive, professional tennis, USTA. March 29, 2006, a 24,000-square-foot Ralph Lauren flagship store opens in the Omotesando shopping area of Tokyo, Japan. The store features the full range of Ralph Lauren designs and merchandise, as well as an exclusive, limited-edition collection of exquisite handbags and accessories. “The opening of our Tokyo flagship store represents a significant milestone for our company. We will create a statement in Japan that will further advance the world of Ralph Lauren in this important part of the market where quality and design are highly valued,” says Ralph Lauren.
Certainly in this profile we could not list every aspect of the development of this luxury brand and the company behind the label. However, this should at least give you a small taste. The story and history of Ralph Lauren is not nearly over.
As in the past, the company appears to be on a continues road to success. Here at the Apparel Search Company, we have our hats off to Ralph Lauren. His product and design has stood the test of time and will most likely continue in that fashion... We look forward to enjoying Ralph Lauren for many years to come.
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