The Life of Ralph Lauren

He was born to Jewish refugees, dropped out of business school, and joined the Army. Everyone knows the label — but most don't know the story of Ralph Lauren.

Designer. Philanthropist. Creative icon.

Ralph Lifshitz was born in October 1939 to Jewish refugees from the Belorussian S.S.R. Belarus in the Bronx. The youngest of 4 siblings, he was infatuated with cinema at a young age, and a Western aesthetic inspired his later work. He has also become well known for his collection of rare automobiles, some of which have been displayed in museum exhibits. Lauren stepped down as CEO of the company in September 2015 but remains executive chairman and chief creative officer. As of 2019, Forbes estimates his wealth at $6.3 billion, which makes Ralph Lauren the 102nd richest person in America.

At 16, he and his brother changed their last name to Lauren after being teased at school. Lauren dropped out of business school at Baruch College and joined the Army, serving from 1962 to 1964. His first job in fashion was in retail at Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant, He then became a salesman for a tie company. On October 1964, he married Ricky Ann Low-Beer — who he'd recently met at a doctor’s office. They had 3 children. In 1967, while working for Beau Brummell Ties, Lauren began designing his own neckties under the brand “Polo.” He had soon sold them at large department stores. By the early 1970s, he'd expanded into full lines, and in 1971, his iconic polo player logo debuted. Lauren was soon outfitting actors like Robert Redford and Diane Keaton. His clothing was lauded as evocative of 1920s Americana.

As Polo explored rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s to global recognition, Lauren worked to diversify fashion. In 1995, he became the first designer to use black models in a major fashion ad campaign. Lauren soon became a philanthropist, co-founding and donating to programs for Breast cancer awareness Access to healthcare, arts programs. After stepping aside as CEO in 2015, Lauren had earned a personal fortune of more than $6 billion — and successfully turned Americana into a global brand.