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<< Back to Robb Report, July 2013

Masters of Modern Luxury: Ralph Lauren

Jill Newman

For more than 40 years, Ralph Lauren has reimagined classic American icons—the range-riding cowboy, the polo-playing Ivy League gentleman—to create this country’s most successful lifestyle brand; corporate revenues reached nearly $7 billion last year. At 73 years old, the designer still dictates his vision of the life well lived, creating the high-fashion lines and sportswear, accessories, jewelry, and furniture that have made Lauren himself an international icon.

Savoring the Simple Things
In some ways luxury never changes. It has always conjured up a desire for things that create a certain way of life that is gracious and beautiful and makes us happy. Luxury can be a well-made pair of shoes, a timepiece, a bicycle, or a handwoven jacket.

But beyond the world of things and products, luxury has new relevance: In our lives today, it has to do with the luxury of personal time to create, to be with my family, to exercise, to learn, to travel, to grow my own food, to cook a good meal, to read, to reflect, to give back. My greatest luxuries include simple things like a walk with my dog in the country and a meal at home with my family.

Layers of Luxury
Most people start with the perception of living “the good life,” one filled with things that have a certain quality: rare materials, craftsmanship, and a unique kind of beauty. Then there is a kind of luxury inspired by people who are confident and inspired to live their lives fully every day: artists, architects, designers, writers, filmmakers, actors—people with a unique vision who create with purpose and passion. Through their vision and craft they create something true each day that would be timeless and enduring. Then there is the luxury that money can’t buy: time.

By an Artist’s Hand
When we talk about luxury brands, they tend to be the ones that have had a certain heritage of excellence and quality and a commitment to craftsmanship. In this digital age, when everything seems available at just about any price, luxury is also associated with owning something that is rare and one of a kind, something crafted by the hand of an artist that can’t be duplicated.

Heritage and craftsmanship have always been the cornerstones of what I create. There is a heritage to things made by hand, and an artistry that romances our way of living. This has always been my passion, and my goal is to search out and bring all of that to the world of Ralph Lauren—everywhere.

Universal Style
When I opened my first flagship store in New York on Madison Avenue in a historic mansion, I was inviting my customers to experience my collections in an environment that was gracious and timeless. Those environments may be old-world or incredibly modern, but all of them are created to make our customers feel they are welcome in a gracious place, whether it’s on Madison Avenue, boulevard Saint-Germain, or Bond Street, or in Moscow, Milan, or Hong Kong.

Having markets all over the world, in addition to the powerful reach of the Internet, has changed the way we communicate with our customers, the way we merchandise our stores, our choice of advertising media, and the like. And though I am thinking of the man or woman who wears my clothes in Paris or Moscow or Hong Kong, my design inspiration is the same. The world of collections that I create is about quality and enduring style, and that never changes.

My fall 2013 women’s collection was inspired by the spirit of romantic revolutionaries from the world of nautical to Les Mis to Anna Karenina. It is a mix of modern black leather, romantic velvets, and the most glamorous evening gowns. And when I was designing these looks, I could see them coming alive on women all over the world.

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Photo by John Pangilinan
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