1967 New York tie designer Beau Brummel gives rookie style-maker Ralph Lauren, then 28, a shot at his own necktie line, which Lauren names after the toniest of sports, polo.
1969 A boutique featuring the Polo Ralph Lauren brand for men, the first-ever in-store designer boutique, opens at Bloomingdale’s Manhattan flagship.
1970 Ralph wins the first Coty Award (subsequently the CFDA Awards) for men’s wear. Three years later, he takes home the Coty for women’s wear.
1971 The debut of Ralph Lauren women’s wear.
1971 A Polo store opens on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, making Lauren the first American designer with a freestanding store.
1972 The original mesh shirt with the mallet-wielding polo-player logo is introduced in 24 colors. The tag line for the accompanying ad campaign: “Every team has its color. Polo has 24.”
1972 Polo launches accessories, footwear, boys’ wear and fragrances.
1974 Lauren outfits Robert Redford and the rest of the male cast of the film “The Great Gatsby” in Twenties-inspired suits.
1977 This time, it’s Diane Keaton and Woody Allen sporting original Lauren designs in the Academy Award-winning film “Annie Hall.” The movie kicks off a national craze for Annie’s men’s wear-inspired, relaxed-preppy chic.
1978 Two of the company’s most famous fragrances, Polo for Men and Lauren, a women’s scent, launch simultaneously.
1979 Polo Ralph Lauren’s first national ad campaign runs. The 20-page spread is notably heavy on images — many featuring nonprofessional models like surfer Buzzy Kerbox and architect Tom Moore — and light on text, the better to promote an almost movie-like depiction of the Ralph Lauren lifestyle.
1981 Ralph Lauren becomes the first American designer with a European boutique when he opens a store on London’s New Bond Street in cooperation with the fashion retailer Browns.
1983 Ralph Lauren Home makes its debut, further laying the foundation for the company’s evolution as a lifestyle brand.
This story first appeared in the October 15, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
1986 The Ralph Lauren flagship opens on Madison Avenue and 72nd Street in New York, housed in the Rhinelander mansion, originally designed in the 1890s for a society matron who ran out of funds before construction could be completed.
1993 The Polo Sport store opens on Madison Avenue across the street from the Rhinelander, featuring a Bauhaus-inspired design and the full range of Polo Sport offerings, from skiwear to tennis togs.1994 A French court orders Ralph Lauren to pay Yves Saint Laurent a total of $395,090 in a lawsuit resulting from the copying of a black tuxedo dress Saint Laurent first created in 1966 and showed again during the couture collection for fall 1991. Not to be outdone, Lauren successfully sues Pierre Bergé, the chairman of YSL, after Bergé notes in WWD: “It’s one thing to draw inspiration from another designer; it’s quite another to rip off a design, line for line, cut for cut, which is what Ralph Lauren did.” Lauren is awarded $87,720 in defamation damages, and Lauren and Bergé are ordered to publish apologies.
1995 Lauren buys back his women’s wear license from the bankrupt Bidermann Industries for a reported price of $40 million to $45 million.
1995 Deals are inked for a women’s denim line with Sun Apparel, and the better-priced Lauren by Ralph Lauren line with the Jones Apparel Group.
1996 Ralph Lauren Paint is introduced, distributed at Home Depot and select independent paint stores.1997 Polo Ralph Lauren goes forward with its much anticipated initial public offering. The stock opens at $32.12 on the New York Stock Exchange, well above the $26 offer price, and trades at $32.75 by late morning.
1998 Less than three months before its new women’s fragrance Romance hits the stores, Ralph Lauren is taken to court by Calvin Klein Cosmetics over the design of the bottle, which Klein says infringes on the look of his Eternity bottle. Lauren wins the suit, and Romance goes on to rack up first-year retail sales of $61 million.
1999 Ralph by Ralph Lauren, a line aimed at 16- to 25-year-olds, launches.
1999 Polo acquires Club Monaco, the 125-store Toronto-based contemporary chain, in a deal worth $87 million.
1999 At Chicago’s new 35,000-square-foot Ralph Lauren flagship on Michigan Avenue, customers get another taste of the brand with the opening of RL, the company’s first restaurant. On the menu: the designer’s favorite dish, veal Milanese, as well as steaks from organically fed cattle raised on Lauren’s Colorado ranch.
2000 The newly formed Ralph Lauren Media launches polo.com in a joint venture with NBC. Selling an array of women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and gifts spanning all the company’s lines, the Web site is predicted to produce 10 percent of total retail volume and is backed by $110 million in advertising from NBC.
2000 Polo makes a $5 million gift to establish a hospital-based cancer prevention and treatment center in Harlem, through a partnership with North General Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It is tailored to meet the specific needs of the Harlem community. The facility opens in 2003.
2000 Polo agrees to outfit the on-air sports broadcasters of ABC’s Monday Night Football for the 2000 NFL season. The announcers include Al Michaels, comedian Dennis Miller, Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Eric Dickerson and ABC reporter Melissa Stark.
2001 Ralph Lauren Home expands its licensing agreement with WestPoint Stevens for bedding and bath products and accessories.
2001 Glamorous, Ralph Lauren’s latest perfume, does $23 million at retail in its first four months.
2001 Ralph Lauren acquires its Italian licensee, PRL Fashions of Europe, for approximately $22 million. PRL had revenues of approximately $75 million for calendar year 2000 and had been a Polo Ralph Lauren licensee since 1984.
2002 Calling it the counterpart to the Polo men’s line, Ralph Lauren unveils plans for his bridge-priced Blue Label women’s sportswear collection, set for fall 2002 in selective distribution of Polo stores and select stores, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Bloomingdale’s.2002 Polo files for a secondary offering, with investment funds controlled by Goldman Sachs expected to cash in about $300 million.
2002 Polo sponsors pro golfer Luke Donald, who will serve as a brand ambassador for Polo Ralph Lauren worldwide with a focus on RLX Golf. Donald will wear the brand and appear in ad campaigns.
2003 In one of fashion’s most memorable and public feuds, Polo squares off with Jones Apparel Group over licensing arrangements for the Ralph by Ralph Lauren and Lauren by Ralph Lauren lines. Both companies sue each other over alleged breach of contract. At issue is whether the Lauren license is linked to the Ralph by Ralph Lauren license, also held by Jones. Polo ultimately takes the Lauren license back and launches a plan to expand that label into numerous categories and its own retail sites.
2003 Polo licenses Mikasa to make and distribute the Lauren Ralph Lauren tabletop collection, hitting stores in spring 2004. Additional product categories, including furniture, will be introduced at later dates. The Lauren Ralph Lauren tabletop collection will include dinnerware, stemware, barware and giftware.
2003 Ralph Lauren Baby, the brand’s first domestic children’s store, opens in New York.
2003 Ralph Lauren opens a Home floor at the New Bond Street store in London. At 3,800 square feet, it is the largest Ralph Lauren Home presentation in Europe and one of the largest worldwide, and offers shoppers a full design center.
2003 Polo.com offers the Create-Your-Own polo shirt program. Through this interactive program, shoppers design their own shirt by choosing the shirt and pony colors. More Create-Your-Own styles follow in 2004.
2004 To honor his ongoing support of Jamaican philanthropic causes, the government of Jamaica issues a commemorative stamp featuring Ralph Lauren. The prime minister of Jamaica, P. J. Patterson, states, “I recognize Ralph Lauren for his continued support of Jamaica and its tourist industry. He is an extraordinary humanitarian, who is held in great esteem.”
2004 Polo acquires RL Childrenswear Co., which was the company’s licensee for children’s wear in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
2004 September marks the opening of the Ralph Lauren flagship at 4 Via Montenapoleone in Milan, bringing the total number of Ralph Lauren stores in Europe to 12.
2004 Ralph’s son David Lauren adds direct management for the marketing, advertising and corporate communications divisions to his role directing the company’s e-commerce marketing efforts.
2004 Rugby, a full lifestyle collection designed for men and women ages 16 to 25, launches. The line features rugby shirts, polos, jackets, suits, dresses, outerwear and accessories. The first Rugby store opens on Newbury Street in Boston.
2005 Polo and the United States Tennis Association sign a four-year global partnership making Polo Ralph Lauren the official apparel sponsor of the U.S. Open through 2008. As part of the partnership, all on-court ball persons and officials will be dressed in specially designed Ralph Lauren apparel.
2005 Polo acquires Ralph Lauren Footwear Co., its global licensee for footwear for men, women and children, in a cash transaction of approximately $110 million.
2006 Polo completes the acquisition of the Polo Jeans business for men’s and women’s casual apparel and sportswear in the U.S. from Jones Apparel Group, settling all outstanding litigation and claims between the two companies. Polo pays an aggregate consideration of $355 million from cash on hand to purchase the stock of Sun Apparel, a Jones subsidiary.
2006 Polo enters a long-term license with Luxottica Group of Milan for the design, production and worldwide distribution of prescription frames and sunglasses under the Polo Ralph Lauren brand.
2006 The Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation donates eco-friendly “Denim” insulation to a Habitat for Humanity housing project in The Bronx. Jeans donated by celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Sheryl Crow, as well as thousands of pairs collected in a nationwide denim drive, are used in the insulation.
2006 A 24,000-square-foot Ralph Lauren flagship opens in the Omotesando shopping area of Tokyo. The store features the full range of Ralph Lauren designs and merchandise, as well as an exclusive limited edition collection of handbags and accessories.
2006 Ralph Lauren appears in Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
2006 Taking a new step in interactive selling, a 67-inch image featuring touch sensory technology is projected on the window of Ralph Lauren’s Madison Avenue store, allowing customers to shop 24/7 by touching the window glass. David Lauren says the inspiration was the technology shown in Steven Spielberg’s film “Minority Report.”
2006 The All England Club designates Polo as Official Outfitter of Wimbledon through 2010. With the partnership, Polo becomes the first designer in Wimbledon’s 129-year history to create apparel for all on-court officials, including umpires and ball persons.
2007 Standard & Poor’s adds Polo to the S&P 500 Index.
2007 Polo acquires Impact 21 Co., its Japanese sublicensee for men’s, women’s and jeans apparel and accessories.
2007 Polo forms Global Brand Concepts to develop lifestyle brands for specialty and department stores. J.C. Penney Co. is the first to sign up, revealing plans to launch the exclusive American Living lifestyle brand for its stores, catalogue and Web site. The launch will be the largest in Penney’s history and will cover a full range of apparel, accessories and home merchandise, available starting in spring 2008.
2007 Polo expands its global fashion empire into Russia, with two flagships in Moscow.
2007 Compagnie Financière Richemont and Polo form The Polo Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry Co. to design, produce and distribute luxury watches and fine jewelry. It is Richemont’s first such joint venture with a fashion designer and it is Polo’s first foray into the precious jewelry and luxury watch businesses. Products will appear in fall 2008.
2007 Kohl’s Corp. and Polo introduce the Chaps Home collection, available exclusively in Kohl’s stores and online at kohls.com. The retailer already exclusively sells clothing and accessories for women, men and kids under the Chaps label.
2007 Polo buys out the 50 percent ownership interest of Ralph Lauren Media held by NBC-Lauren Media Holdings (a subsidiary wholly owned by NBC Universal) and ValueVision Media, giving Polo full ownership of the Polo.com operation. The acquisition is a cash transaction of $175 million.
2007 Ralph Lauren is honored with the CFDA’s American Fashion Legend award, and wins Menswear Designer of the Year.
2007 Polo selects tennis champ and commentator Boris Becker to be the official brand ambassador for the Wimbledon championships.
2007 Polo Ralph Lauren celebrates its 40th anniversary in business, showing its spring 2008 runway collection in a specially erected venue in Central Park’s Conservatory Gardens. The show is followed by a dinner for 500 guests, including Dustin Hoffman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Robert De Niro, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, Diane Sawyer and John Mellencamp, as well as support from the competition: Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera.