Ralph is stepping up.
In response to the coronavirus crisis, the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, formerly known as the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation, has pledged $10 million to help the company’s teams and communities impacted by the pandemic.
Lauren joins such leading brands as Nike, Facebook and New Balance making major financial donations to the COVID-19 relief efforts.
“At the heart of our company, there has always been a spirit of togetherness that inspires our creativity, our confidence and most importantly our support for one another. In the past weeks and months, that spirit has never wavered,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer. “We believe that no matter who you are or where you are from, we are all connected. That is why we are taking significant action to help our teams and communities through this crisis.”
Calling it a “multifaceted crisis,” Lauren said the company wanted to support “the different needs of our people, as well as our cancer partners and the communities closest to us.”
The foundation’s commitment of $10 million will have several components. It will:
• Provide financial grants for Emergency Assistance Foundation for Ralph Lauren colleagues in need.
• Contribute to the World Health Organization COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, a global effort supporting countries to prevent, detect and respond to the pandemic.
• Build on the company’s 20-year commitment to cancer care through its Pink Pony Fund by supporting its network of international cancer institutions that are caring for people with cancer, who are especially vulnerable at this time.
• Commit an inaugural gift of $1 million to the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund’s A Common Thread fundraising initiative to support the American fashion community impacted by COVID-19.
“We recognize that this is an unprecedented multifaceted crisis which demands different responses for different needs in different places,” said Patrice Louvet, president and chief executive officer of Ralph Lauren Corp. “That is why we are funding multiple activities to support our teams, our partners and our communities around the world. As we move through this challenging time, we are focused on continuing to be the beacon of optimism and unity that Ralph Lauren and our brands have always stood for.”
Additionally, Ralph Lauren is also working to assess the needs and technical requirements for medical-grade materials like masks and isolation gowns that guard against virus transmission. The company seeks to support the efforts to produce this equipment with capacity, materials and production. So far, it is making 25,000 isolation gowns and 250,000 masks with its U.S. manufacturing partners.
As reported, A Common Thread (formerly the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund), aims to raise awareness as well as money for the American fashion community hit by the crisis. Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, and Tom Ford, chairman of the CFDA, are seeking major donor contributions. Lauren’s donation goes toward the funding aspect, not the storytelling aspect.
Wintour said Wednesday, “Ralph already means so much to American fashion, which is why his incredibly generous contribution will have such impact — along with all the smaller donations we have received in the short time since we have announced this initiative. I’m overwhelmed — but not at all surprised — by his generosity. In this time of need, American fashion is so lucky to have him.”
Ford said, “Ralph’s contribution is incredibly generous and we are deeply touched and thankful. Obviously we would love to see more donations of this magnitude from companies that can afford it, but we do not underestimate the power of small donors. Whatever anyone feels that they can spare is a welcome and much appreciated donation.”
Steven Kolb, president and ceo of the CFDA, said Wednesday, “Ralph’s gift of $1 million to A Common Thread is phenomenal. It’s our first big gift and a step up to join our chairman Tom Ford and Anna Wintour in this industry effort. His lead gift is a real gift. It’s leadership at its highest and we couldn’t be more excited.
“In coming from Ralph, he’s singular in his Americanism when it comes to fashion, and this being a program to support the American fashion industry is just a great way to get out of the gate. Less than 12 hours after we announced it, Ralph was on the phone with Anna,” added Kolb.
Asked how much they want to raise, Kolb said, “Whatever we can. The great thing about this campaign is it’s meant to allow people to participate. You can be someone who has $5 to support and you can text to give, or you can give $1,000 online, or you can call Anna Wintour with a million dollars. We want to raise as much as we can. We know that money is needed to offset the challenges that brands, fashion companies and the fashion industry are challenged with, and so whatever we can raise, and whatever we can quickly get out, that’s our goal.”
They plan to tap into all their networks for donations, large and small. They have been encouraged by early grassroots donations as well as larger support.
Beginning March 25, designers and those who work behind the scenes across the industry were invited to submit videos in which they tell their fashion stories, including the impact of the pandemic on their careers and lives. The videos will live on the digital platforms of the CFDA, Vogue and all Condé Nast titles.
Designers and brands seeking relief can apply on the CFDA web site beginning April 8. The program is open to designers and brands across the industry. They need not be former CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners, nor even CFDA members. While the selection committee hasn’t been determined yet, it will include people from both within and outside of Vogue and the CFDA.
Donors can support the fund by texting THREAD to 44-321 or by contributing online at https://secure.givelively.org/donate/cfda-foundation-inc/cvff-a-common-thread or writing a check to the CFDA Foundation Inc.
Turning to how he’s personally dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and how he’s adapted to working remotely, the 80-year-old Lauren said, “This is a strange time, but I am optimistic. I believe this is something that unites us in our humanity and every day I am reminded to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of things we often take for granted.”
He said he’s weathered many challenges over the years, and believes that the company will emerge from this one. “Our company has been around for more than 50 years. We have seen many ups and downs and I know we will see the other side of this. We have strong leaders and teams who are interpreting how this affects us every day. We will endure.”
As for how things might change once this is over, Lauren said, “I think personally, this will help each of us around the world refocus and perhaps redefine what matters most to us. And though the inspiration and experience of working together face to face can never be replaced, I do think we are surprising ourselves with how effective we can work using technology.”
Asked about his own digital and social media skills, Lauren said, “Tweeting is not my thing.” He said he’s been using the phone a lot to talk to his leaders regularly. “I’m thinking about a lot of things, spending time outdoors and sharing some very special time with Ricky,” his wife, he said.
Obviously, he said that the decisions to temporarily shut down the offices and the stores were difficult. “We wanted to be thoughtful but decisive,” he said. “Of course it was hard, but because we are always guided by the interests of our employees and our customers, it was the right thing to do. Everyone’s health and well-being is what matters most right now.”
As for whether his employees are worried about their jobs, he said, “People are worried everywhere about their lives and livelihoods. This is an uncertain time and uncertainty brings worry for everyone.”
Lauren said the hardest part of being isolated is not being with his colleagues.
“I miss being with my teams. I like to be in the mix, I love to interact. I love to create and collaborate. That becomes challenging, but it is amazing how everyone is getting so creative in how we do this,” he said.
Responding to whether he believes the economy should get going again quickly, or people should stay home and protect their health and businesses should remain closed, Lauren said, “Health has to be first, but we have to look at both this acute crisis and our ability as a company, a nation and the world to get back to some sense of normalcy when the time is right.”