Ralph Lauren: A Journey Through Fashion, Philanthropy, and Controversies

Early Life

The story of Ralph Lauren started in the Bronx, where he was born into a family of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants. Due to the constant bullying they experienced in school, young Ralph and his brother, George Poitras Lauren, legally changed their last name from Lifshitz to Lauren. This was a dramatic turn in their lives. Growing up in the Bronx, he was surrounded by future fashion icons like Robert Denning and Calvin Klein as well as a thriving Jewish culture.

Formation of Ralph Lauren Corporation

. The iconic cotton mesh Polo shirt featuring the polo player insignia was first released by the Ralph Lauren Corporation in 1972, solidifying the preppy aesthetic as one of Lauren’s defining looks. In addition, he created the costumes for the male casts of “The Great Gatsby” (1974) and “Annie Hall” (1977) starring Diane Keaton and Woody Allen.

When Ralph Lauren fragrances for men and women were introduced in 1978, Lauren’s brand went beyond apparel. In 1981, the company’s adventure crossed the Atlantic when it opened the first standalone store for an American designer on London’s New Bond Street


There have been several conflicts throughout Ralph Lauren’s remarkable career. Notably, he’s been under fire for cultural appropriation, especially for using images of Native Americans. He provoked controversy in 2014 when he used vintage photos of Native American males to advertise his clothing business during a holiday marketing campaign

2022, Mexican Design Plagiarism

Ralph Lauren was accused in 2022 of stealing pre-Hispanic cultures’ artwork and copying indigenous Mexican patterns by Beatriz Gutierrez, the wife of the president of Mexico. Gutierrez credited the Mexican towns of Contla and Saltillo with the design of a Ralph Lauren cardigan that had indigenous themes in an Instagram post.

2022, Mexican Design Plagiarism

2020, Unauthorized Use of Black Symbols in their Clothing

Ralph Lauren apologised in 2020 for putting the Greek emblems of the historically black fraternity Phi Beta Sigma on a pair of trousers that cost more than $300.