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Early life

The youngest of four children, Ralph Lifshitz was born in the Bronx, New York, on October 14, 1939. His father was a house-painter. Ralph became interested in clothes when he was in seventh grade. While attending DeWitt Clinton High School in New York, he worked part-time for New York department stores, saving his money to buy clothes. He changed his name to Lauren in the mid-1950s. After graduating from high school he worked as a salesman and began studying business at night. He quit school after a few months, spent time in the army, and then looked for a job in fashion.

Creates popular fashions

In 1967 Lauren was hired by Beau Brummell Ties as a designer. His wide, colorful ties were the opposite of the narrow dark neckties common at the time; they sold well and started a new trend. Lauren started his own company and the next year launched a line of men's clothing, Polo, offering styles that were a mix of English and American styles and that expressed an image of class. Lauren's menswear was a success, and in 1971 he introduced his women's line. As the years went by he continued to branch out into children's clothes, colognes, footwear, home products, and other merchandise.

Lauren designed costumes for the films The Great Gatsby (1973) and Annie Hall (1978) that influenced the way millions dressed. Modestly describing his work, Lauren stated, "I believe in clothes that last, that are not dated in a season. The people who wear my clothes don't think of them as fashion.' Lauren's vision was to represent American style with a dash of British elegance and the comfort of natural fibers.

Lauren lived the image he projected, and he was often featured with his family in magazines devoted to lives of the rich and famous. He was also the first designer to appear in his own advertising. One of the secrets of Lauren's success lay in his attention to detail, always checking product quality and maintaining tight control over the brand image he crafted so carefully. Lauren's fashion formula earned many honors from his peers. He had seven Coty design awards and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1992 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of American Fashion Designers and a tribute for twenty-five years of impact on American style from the Woolmark Awards. The Council of Fashion Designers later elected him Designer of the Year in 1996.
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