About Ralph Lauren

A menswear-inspired look from the Ralph Lauren Fall 2011 runway show.

Photo: Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

If you are more likely to play croquet than to walk a runway, or to enjoy cocktails in the garden than to bar-hop, you are a Ralph Lauren woman. The go-to Lauren look is fresh, preppy, sporty and clean-cut, but there is something more to it than a polo shirt or a pair of spiffy boat shoes. The designer creates styles that hint at sexuality, with finely-woven knits and tailoring that highlights the female form.

Background

In 1968, in a fashion landscape of narrow ties in tired patterns, Ralph Lauren made a splash with his wide, flamboyant ties. To keep the ties from being today's trend but tomorrow's history, he used opulent fabrics and had the pieces hand-sewn. Wealthy men recognized a brand that could relay their salary and status, and snapped them up. This early success underscored the Lauren label's emphasis on quality and marketing to a clientele that could appreciate and afford it.

Evolution of a Brand

Lauren remained firmly in the menswear and men's accessories lines until 1971 when the label launched its first collection for women. The designer stayed true to its sporty roots, emphasizing clean lines and a timeless style. As the Lauren empire grew, so did its offerings to women. No longer limited to polo shirts, golf clothing, tennis separates and day wear for sailing, women's lines encompassed the glamorous Collection series of full-length evening gowns and accessories; the slightly less formal and more modern Black Label; the Blue Label knitwear; the more affordable Lauren by Ralph Lauren pieces which also come in plus sizes; Ralph Lauren Golf; and Lauren Jeans Co. These days, you can even paint your home in Lauren's custom colors, bring his designer furnishings to the bedroom, and dress your children as mini-Laurens.

The Mother Ship

When Lauren goes all out, he spares no expense. In the Ralph Lauren flagship store on Madison Avenue, the designer transformed the one-time Gertrude Rhinlander Waldo mansion into a shrine to American design. The luxurious century-old building, built in the style of a French chateau, attracts tourists who wander among arches and columns to browse through tweed blazers and hand-tailored suits. In October 2010, Lauren opened another space across the street for showcasing women's clothing and housewares.

Celebrity Sightings

Celebrities wear Lauren when they're out on the town shopping as well as rocking the red carpet. Angelina Jolie looks lovely in Lauren, whether she wraps herself in a belted soft gray jacket or shows off her curves in a simple black sheath with a bodice-hugging top.

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