10 Things You Didn't Know About Ralph Lauren

First things first. How do you pronounce his name? (Hint: He's American, not French.)

Ralph Lauren is a staple in most wardrobes. Fashion trends may come and go, but the brand's classic pieces have remained the same, if not gotten better, through the years. Here's everything you need to know about the clothing designer, philanthropist, and businessman behind the All-American brand.

1. Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Rueben Lifschitz.

Born in New York City in 1939, Lauren was the youngest of four children of Jewish immigrants Frank and Frieda Lifshitz. At the age of 16, Lauren along with his brother Jerry changed their last names as a matter of convenience. The two polled friends on two names, London or Lauren.

2. The correct pronunciation of Lauren is “LAU-ren.”

Fans of Ralph Lauren have been debating whether to emphasize the “Lau-“ or “-ren” ever since the brand gained mainstream popularity. In 2016, Tovah Silbermann posted a tweet that showed the company’s reply to her query on how to pronounce the famous last name. “Like the girl’s name,” a representative of the company confirmed.

3. He got his start as a designer for Brooks Brothers.

After serving in the United States Army, Lauren accepted a position at Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant. Before then, he had no formal experience in fashion. He then moved to a now-defunct tie company as a salesman before starting his own namesake fashion brand.

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4. Ties were his first design.

In an interview with Oprah, Lauren says he “didn’t have a vision” for his brand. He started by making ties, and offering them from store to store. “The ties, as simple as they were, looked very different from other ties. They were wide and unusual,” he shared.


5. He launched the iconic Polo shirt in 1972.

Lauren reworked René Lacoste’s pique by shortening the sleeves and adding his now signature polo pony. When it was first launched, the Ralph Lauren polo shirt was available in a single-fit with over 24 colors. As the brand’s most popular item, the polo is introduced in new colors and limited edition styles each season.

6. The first Polo Bear was given to him as a present. The Polo Bear is a motif that’s been present in Ralph Lauren’s designs since 1991. The idea came from a limited edition Steiff teddy bear that was given to Lauren as a birthday present by his team at Polo Ralph Lauren Company. He loved it so much that it became a tradition to dress the bear up yearly. Soon, the designer made it available at his stores. The bear was so well-received that the brand introduced the motif on sweaters shortly after.

7. The Ralph Lauren brand has more than 30 sub-brands.

There’s Purple Label, Black Label, RL Classics, and Big & Tall to name a few. What many don’t know, however, is that the Ralph Lauren Corporation is also the owner of Club Monaco. The high-end casual clothing brand was purchased in 1999 for $52.5 million.

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8. Aside from fashion, he has ventures in the food business.

Ralph’s Coffee & Bar offers homemade cookies, nitrogen-infused cold brew, classic American roast, indulgent chocolate layer cake, and heirloom recipe cheesecake. Then there are also the label’s other restaurants: The Polo Bar in New York, Ralph’s in Paris, RL in Chicago, and Ralph’s in London.

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9. He has a priceless collection of automobiles.

His impressive hobby is often featured on lists of the largest and most expensive private collections, and he owns some of the world's rarest classic cars. The designer has over 70 cars, but one that's especially notable is his 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic—worth $40 million, there are only two left in the world.

10. He’s the only designer who’s won the Council of Fashion Designers of America's four top honors.

The CFDA has awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, the Menswear Designer of the Year Award and the Retailer of the Year Award. In 2009, he became the first designer to be recognized as the Most Popular American Designer.

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Paolo Chua
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor of Esquire Philippines.
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