Shalom Life | March 08, 2015

Jewish Hall of Fame: Ralph Lauren

Entrepreneur, fashion designer, and founder of one of the most recognizable brands in the world

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: March 5th, 2015 in Business » World

Jewish Hall of Fame: Ralph Lauren

Since the dawn of time, Jewish people have contributed greatly to various fields, from sports to entertainment to politics to porn. With our Breakthrough Jew feature, we recognize those who are up and comers in these various industries, identifying those great innovators and leaders in the contemporary world who are making a mark on society that will last a lifetime.

With the Jewish Hall of Fame, we recognize the remarkable advancements members of our community have made on today's society. These are people who have truly changed the world, and have earned the respect and praise of the members of today's younger generation.

ShalomLife’s Jewish Hall of Fame is our ongoing tribute to the greatest Jews who have ever lived; be sure to catch us weekly with our latest inductees, and tweet us @ShalomLife with your suggestions

Check out last week's inductee into the Hall of Fame here.

Hall of Fame Member: Ralph “Lauren” Liftshitz

Born: October 14th, 1939, in the Bronx, New York.

One of the world’s most beloved fashion designers Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lifshitz, has always had an eye for design. Born to Ashkenazi Jewish parents, Fraydl and Frank Lifshitz, from Belarus, Lauren always wanted the best for himself and his family.

He attended the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy, and then studied at the DeWitt Clinton High School which he graduated from in 1957. While in high school, Lauren made the name change from Lifshitz to Lauren. Although proud of his Jewish heritage, Lauren wanted a name that rolled off the tongue easier and was easier to brand.

Upon graduating from high school, Lauren attended Baruch College for business, but dropped out shortly after the start of his second year. He then served in the United States Army from 1962 to 1964, then left to pursue a career with the Brooks Brothers as a sales assistant. Unsatisfied with his job, he left Brooks Brothers to take a job as a salesman for a tie company.

That same year he married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer, whom he’d met while she was working as a receptionist at a doctor’s office. The two were married, but Lauren kept it a secret from his parents, fearing how they’d receive her given her Catholic heritage. The couple has since had three children; Andrew, David, and Dylan.

Then, in 1966, he approached his company about designing a wide styled tie, similar to those found in European fashion of the time. Fortunately for Lauren, the company shot down his idea, but inspired him to leave his job as a salesman. He worked from the Empire State building, turning scraps of fabric into neckties to fit his own unique design. He sold his ties to shops around the New York area, and got his first real break when Neiman Marcus, owner of a luxury department store, bought 1,200 ties from Lauren.

In 1967, with money from clothing manufacturing mogul Norman Hilton, Lauren opened his first store in Manhattan. He sold ties from other brands, as well as his own brand which he’d labeled Polo. Four years after his first boutique opened, Lauren opened a second store in Beverly Hills on the iconic Rodeo Drive, and his clothing line expanded to include a variety of menswear, which won the 1970 COTY Award.

In 1972, Lauren launched the famous short sleeve pique shirt for women. He also released a set of women’s suits, his Polo logo on the cuffs of their sleeves, which helped to make his brand famous. That same year he released a women’s collection, his shirts coming out in 24 colours and became both an instant classic and staple of the Lauren line. His collection was featured in movies such as 1977’s Annie Hall and 1974’s The Great Gatsby.

In 1984, with his popularity on the rise, he opened the first Polo Ralph Lauren store. He took the Rhinelander Mansion and converted it into the landmark store for his designs. By 1997, the Ralph Lauren Corporation became a publicly traded company.

In 1987, Lauren was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Thankfully in April of that same year, he underwent surgery, and the tumor was successfully removed.

Lauren has always had a love of fast cars, and is renown for his extensive collection of them which he’s amassed as his fortune’s grown. With some rare cars, including a Reventón Roadster, making up his 70-vehicle collection, his cars were displayed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in 2005, as well as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris, back in 2011.

By 2010, the company had almost fifty store across the United States, as well as international locations, with a reported yearly revenue of roughly $5 billion in 2009 alone. That same year, Lauren was dubbed the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France. He was also awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in 2014.

For his ingenuity, creativity, and inspirational fashion sense, we at Shalom Life have made Ralph Lauren this week’s inductee into the Jewish Hall of Fame.

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