It all started with a tie. Ralph Lauren’s fashion industry that is, and that’s what brought Oprah Winfrey to Ridgway, Colorado recently to interview Ralph Lauren and his family at their beautiful ranch home.
Most people think that Ralph Lauren became a household name from the success of his polo shirts, but that’s not true. As Lauren told Oprah Winfrey his fascinating story, she too, was surprised. You can watch episodes from Oprah’s show by clicking on Oprah.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx in 1939 to Russian immigrants. Ralph was the youngest of four kids. He remembers that he prized his hand-me-downs from his brothers and the family usually bought their clothes from the military surplus store. Lauren was not born rich, he earned it.
Today, Ralph Lauren is the biggest selling designer in the world. His empire is estimated at 12 billion dollars and he’s the official outfitter of the U.S. Olympic teams, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open.
The Ralph Lauren business started with ties. He would make ties and sell them to classmates in high school and then he knocked on the door of Bloomingdales, which was the top department store at the time, and they bought his ties. After a short time, Bloomingdales wanted to remove Ralph Lauren’s name and sell the ties under their store name. Lauren admits that he probably used a few expletives, but he refused Bloomingdales offer and removed his merchandise from their store.
Just six months later, Bloomingdales called Lauren to bring back his uniquely styled ties. Lauren agreed and while visiting the store one day, he noticed another rack of ties that were copying his design. When he questioned the manager, the manager told Lauren that his ties were different; his ties were made with love. Lauren never forgot those words and to this day, he designs items with love.
A quiet, humble man, Ralph Lauren will tell you, “I’m not about fashion; I’m about living.” He believes his designs are about what people dream their life will be like. Ralph Lauren made a household name for himself by designing comfortable items that weren’t available on the market. For instance, comfortable kids clothing and big fluffy bath towels come to mind. Oprah stated that when she bought her first fluffy Ralph Lauren bath towel, she felt it was a dream come true.
He explains to Oprah Winfrey how he began designing kids clothing. He has three children of his own, and when he went to stores to purchase clothing for them the fabrics were a cotton/polyester blend and he was looking for plain cotton which is more comfortable. When he couldn’t find comfortable cotton clothing for his kids, he designed them. Lauren states that that’s how most of his designs came about. If he was looking for something in particular, like a nice luxurious bath towel, and he couldn’t find it, then he designed it. People everywhere can now have luxurious towels which used to be for the rich and famous only.
Of course, most of us have owned a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt at least once in our lives. The quality of the fabric is wonderful and there are so many colors to choose from that both men and women can wear them. His polo shirts were created after the ties. Lauren loves sports and he wanted to be a basketball player or a baseball player. That didn’t happen, but he did create the world-famous polo shirt. He called them ‘polo’ shirts because it represented an international sport and was a little more sophisticated than a basketball or baseball shirt. And who hasn’t owned one?
As Oprah and Ralph toured his beautiful 17,000 acre ranch at the base of the San Juan Mountains, he told Oprah how this ranch came to be. He purchased the ranch in 1982 after he and his wife, Ricky were looking for a private side of life away from the hustle and bustle of New York. They wanted something with cattle, horses, mountains, and wind. They got all that and more when they purchased their ranch in Ridgway. If you’ve never been there, read my article, “Fall Foliage Tour on County Road 9 in Ridgway” which actually runs through this property.
When asked by Oprah what he was most proud of, Lauren quickly replied that he’s most proud of his family. He’s very proud of his bride of 46 years and their 3 children; Andrew, David, and his only daughter, Dylan. While watching the interview, you can see the genuine love and appreciation he has for his lovely wife, Ricky. Don’t forget, Ricky didn’t marry Ralph for money. When they were married, Ralph was selling ties and trying to make ends meet. Like most couples, the two of them worked hard to build a business and raise a family at the same time.
Oprah also chatted with Ralph Lauren’s three children. Dylan will be married next month wearing a dress designed by Dad, and you can bet that a lot of love has gone into her dress. David, who is the only family member with an interest in the Ralph Lauren business, will be married in September to former President George Bush’s granddaughter on the Double RL ranch. Having seen this ranch, I can tell you that this is an outstanding outdoor wedding venue.
When Oprah asked the kids what they remembered the most, they were all quick to reply that their Dad was always there for them. He was there for their school events and he was there every night at the supper table. I think that says it all about a man trying to make a living and loving his family, don’t you?
Source: Oprah Winfrey Show, May 18, 2011
Photo Credits: Sandy James/Yahoo!