The Bite Magazine - Autumn/Winter 2021 - Issue 30

bitedesignerprofile Special Designer Profile Jada Brookes traces American fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s beginning as a thriving necktie maker to running a conglomerate fashion empire for more than 50 years. Ralph Lauren Polo Style F or Ralph Lauren, a New York native and later a designer, born in 1939 to Ashkenazi Jewish im- migrant parents who had fled Belarus, eastern Europe, it started with a tie! He had been working in retail at Brooks Brothers when he developed the idea to launch a line of neckties under the name of Polo. Working out of a drawer in the Empire State Building, he drew inspiration from the glamour of Old Hollywood to make the wide ties handmade from the highest quality fabrics. Even as a teenager, Lauren (who changed his family surname Lifshitz to Lauren when he was 16 with his brother Jerry) was known for his distinctive fashion sense, looking to screen icons like Fred Astaire and Cary Grant while having a taste for both the classic preppy wear and vintage looks. Before he took the sales job at Brooks Brothers, he had studied business at Baruch College in Manhattan for two years and had a brief stint in the army. After getting a $30,000 loan, Lauren was able to fully develop his business and eventually expanded his designs to a full menswear line. In 1970, he was awarded the Coty Award for his men’s designs. He then released a line of women’s suits tailored in a classic men’s style. One of the pivotal points in his designing career was when he released a short-sleeve cotton shirt in 23 colours. It was emblazoned with the company’s famed logo, a polo player created by tennis pro, René Lacoste. His first full men’s collection included standout piec- es like a white flannel suit and dress shirts in unex- pected sport shirt fabrics. “I wanted more romance,” Lauren said, explaining his inspiration. “I wanted