“People ask how can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes? Does it have to do with class and money? It has to do with dreams….” Ralph Lauren
Great politicians, splendid bankers, prominent scientists, outstanding artists, exceptional philosophers, psychologists, distinctive doctors. How many among them are Jewish? I am perfectly sure that you are curious about this issue as everybody around had been discussing “Jewish question” from the very moment they became involved into Haskalah or Enlightenment . But to my mind, the is an easy answer, given by a Jew half of a century ago: “The Jews are striving for superiority, because they have no chance to stay among equals. ”, – Max Nordau ( Jewish Zionist and politician).
Ralph Lauren, the visionary American dream-maker who’s turned a look (and a necktie) into a $10 billion empire opened his own vision on life in 2002, when he gave an interview to American magazine Oprah. His talent of artist, sense of grace and incredible capacity for work created a stable world of luxury.
Being born in the family of Jewish emigrants from Poland, he probably inherited an artistic streak of his father, who painted houses. Mixed together with tailor genes of his ancestors, his talents displayed themselves when he was a schoolboy.
Ralph tells: “ As a kid, I was always into clothes, but I didn’t have the money to buy them. When I’d get my brothers’ hand-me-downs, there was an energy in me that made me say, “I want to get my own things, to make my own statement.“
The youngest of four children, Ralph Lifshitz was born during the Second World War in the Bronx, New York, on October 14, 1939.
Wait a second, are we talking about the same men, you’d ask?
Yes, definitely. Being a teenager Ralph changed his surname to Lauren in the mid-1950s following the example of his brother. But as he explains, it had nothing to do with his Jewishness, just having the word “sheet” within the name definitely didn’t symbolize any luck…. thus was born a name of a great designer .
In 1967 a “tie story” began. Lauren was hired by Beau Brummell Ties as a designer. His wide, colorful ties (he started to run this business being in High school already) the opposite of the narrow dark neckties common at the time; they sold well and started a new trend.
Ralph: “The ties, as simple as they were, looked very different from other ties. They were wide and unusual.
I never said to myself, “I’m going to be the greatest.” I just wanted to do my own thing. I’d worked for a tie company, and I said, “Can we do this kind of tie? I think we could sell them in New York.” This older guy who ran the company said, “No—the world is not ready for Ralph Lauren.” That was a big statement to say to a 26-year-old kid. The guy laughed at the idea of doing your own thing. I left there and started out of a drawer in the Empire State Building. I used to go out and find rags and make them into ties, then I’d carry them to stores and sell them. People started saying, “More—we want more.” That was so exciting for me. A guy from Neiman Marcus came to my office one day and said, “Let me look at your ties. I’ve been seeing them around.” Then he said, “Would you send these to the main buyer?” At the time, I wasn’t big on flying—I had little kids, and I wasn’t that experienced in jetting all over the place. But I got my little rags together, got on a plane, and flew there, because I knew the buyer wouldn’t understand my ties unless I explained them to him in person. I came home with an order for 100 dozen! That was my first big success. I thought, “I can do this—I’m in business.” After that I wanted to sell to Bloomingdale’s, which was the kingpin in New York. When I finally had the chance to show the buyer the ties, he said, “Ralph, I like the patterns—but you gotta make them a quarter of an inch narrower. And I want you to take your name off and put on Sutton East”—that was their private label. I said to the guy, “Gary, I’m dying to sell to Bloomingdale’s, but I’m closing my bag because I can’t take my name off. And I can’t make the tie a quarter of an inch narrower.”
Lauren always was self-sufficient and independent and carried those principles through out his life. “The artist writes, paints, sings or dances the burden of some idea or feeling off his mind.” His idea was to create clothes, to help the beauty spring up, to make people enjoy their shell, their cover. Material and spiritual origins are tightly connected one to the other. Although it is challenge to follow the time, meaning to create great new items every season.and to please all the public. But somehow he has been succeeding . He admits : “I can just feel the vibrations and the pulse of the world out there. And yet I have a sense of my own style. I don’t want to be anyone but myself.”
According to his own words, Ralph was never striving to become rich. Of course, as an every normal person, he had the same dreams as many others. But money never were the cornerstone of his philosophy as his principle is “to do what I love doing”.
Lauren lived the image he projected, and he was often featured with his family in magazines devoted to lives of the rich and famous. It’s quite difficult to find some unpleasant rumors about his past or present. He was a model husband and is a father of 4 grown-up children.
When you are looking back over the years, can you believe your life?
Ralph: I can’t. When I sit back and look at what I have, I can say, “This is great.” But when you’re dedicated to your work, you’ve got to be out there working. It doesn’t matter if you’re very rich or very poor, you still have anxieties.
You are probable asking yourself, does his success have something to do with his Jewishness. Well, as Ralph claims, he is very proud of his history and of his life. And he does celebrate Jewish holidays. But if it did involve his way of life to the certain point…. Clearly not in the traditional and religious man. It’s more about his approach to the life round him: “ I always had a sense of people and would talk with them. I talk to my doorman. I talk to everybody. I work with. I enjoy it. I like being part of a real life. I love dreams. I love glamour. I love being invited to great places. But I don’t really care if I go, as long as I’m invited. I get invited to so many things, but I’d rather go have a hamburger or see a movie.”
What else is left to say? If you ask Ralph about the formula of happiness, he wouldn’t answer you directly. But according to what we just read, let’s summarize in order to elicit the crucial elements.
Passion +Great desire + industry + spiritualizing material + simple approach+ striving for enjoying every moment of your life, being enthusiastic about what you are doing.
So, Ralph Lauren sells much more than fashion: He sells the life you’d like to lead.
The article inclines on the materials of the interview with Ralph Lauren, conducted in 2002. The talk was recorded and re-cast by the Oprah magazine