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Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifschitz on October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive.
Ralph J. Lauren was born in the New York City borough of The Bronx to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants Fraydl (Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, his father was a house painter. His life has many parallels to Robert Denning, the interior designer. Both grew up without fashion, but went on to create and market a lifestyle of society, old money and country club style. Although neither had any exposure to this world as a child, each was able to visualize and create his dream. For Lauren this look would eventually become Polo Ralph Lauren.
From a very young age, he started working after school to earn money to buy stylish, expensive suits with an early preference for quality over quantity. His attire soon gave him a trendy reputation among his peers. The well-known Calvin Klein, a younger contemporary also lived in the same Bronx neighbourhood.
Lauren attended the Salanter Academy Jewish Day School followed by MTA (now known as the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy), before ultimately graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957. In MTA Lauren was known by his classmates for selling ties to his fellow students. In his Clinton yearbook he stated under his picture that he wanted to be a millionaire. Other notables who attended this school include Burt Lancaster, Robert Klein, Stan Lee, and Colin Powell. At age 16, Ralph's brother Jerry changed their last name from Lifshitz to Lauren (his brother Lenny remained a Lifshitz for many years).
He went to the Baruch College where he studied Business and dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964, he served in the United States Army. After his discharge, in 1968, he married Ricky Low-Beer. He did not attend fashion school, but worked for Brooks Brothers as a salesman and then created the label Polo, a necktie business. He later purchased this name from his initial backer, Norman Hilton. Lauren's fashion empire has since grown into a billion-dollar business.
In 1984 he recreated the Rhinelander Mansion, a former home of the photographer Edgar de Evia and Robert Denning, into the flagship store for Polo Ralph Lauren. This same year de Evia photographed the Lauren home at Round Hill in Jamaica for House & Garden.
In the middle of the 1990s, Polo Ralph Lauren became a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RL.
Ralph and his wife, Ricky, have two sons and a daughter: Andrew, David, and Dylan. David is an executive at Polo Ralph Lauren. Dylan owns and operates an upscale candy store, Dylan's Candy Bar, at 59th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. Ricky appeared on the television show Martha on December 6th, 2006 and stated that her son Andrew is in the "movie business".
Lauren is the subject of several biographies (written by Jeffrey Trachtenberg, Michael Gross and Colin MacDowell).
Lauren is also well-known as a collector of classic automobiles. His cars have won best in show at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance multiple times. His collection was recently displayed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
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