By  on August 10, 2007

NEW YORK — Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. had its annual shareholders meeting here Thursday at the St. Regis Hotel, and the emphasis was on longevity.

Chairman and chief executive officer Ralph Lauren said that while getting ready for the meeting that morning he realized it all began with a tie.

That was a reference to the early days, when his upstart firm began by selling a tie that was a half-inch wider than the ones already on the market. Now, of course, 40 years later, the business he founded is about much more than ties, with merchandise ranging from apparel to accessories for men, women and children, as well as product for the home.

"The company is just beginning," the chairman told attendees, assuring them Polo still has plenty of opportunities for growth.

The company is getting ready to launch new initiative American Living, a private label concept that will arrive at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. stores in spring 2008. The new line is part of Polo's Global Brand Concepts, a business division in which the company works in partnership with retailers to develop private brands. American Living is the division's first initiative.

Lauren said J.C. Penney is dedicating about 5 to 10 percent of its shelf space to the new private label.

"Department stores need individuality and specialty stores need something that's their own," Lauren said.

When it came time for questions, one shareholder asked why the public relations department was so "rude" as to choose a black-and-white photo of "the great chairman who founded the company," instead of a color picture, to appear in the annual report.

Lauren replied, "I chose the picture....I look handsome in it and it was taken 20 years ago, so I look a lot younger."

Polo, which went public in 1997, has been able to remain competitive, and Lauren predicted the company will be around for many more years.

"Through the years we have had the same formula for running our business," the chairman said. "We are not about trendy fashion. It's not a hot retailer. It's about longevity, which is unheard of in the fashion business, which is all about youth and change."

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