Business and Fashion
I watched the documentary, Very Ralph, on HBO that tells Ralph Laurens story the other night. He was the ultimate brand builder. The business was first, fashion was second. He trusted his gut, he saw trends, he understood how to build an image and fuel it season after season. He had a critical eye and was competitive and confident.
He started out in the men’s tie space. He made wider ties. That, of course, gave reason for new suits and shirts which Lauren got into as well. When Bloomingdale’s knocked on his door and wanted to carry his brand but without his name on it (white label), he refused. It was quite a ballsy move to turn them down but they came back and carried his brand with his name.
The time was the 1970’s and it was the beginning of a very different retail era. I came into retail in 1983, the booming tail end of the end of that era. As large chains such as the Gap came into the market, the market share of large stores such as Bloomingdales and Macy’s began to wain. Today retail has become lost. Even the newest brands aren’t really creating something so significantly different than stores of the past, they just feel more in line with how we live, dress and buy for ourselves today.
Today there is nothing as desirable as Ralph Lauren was in the day. He created a cinematic life, an aspirational life, he understood the power of advertising and he believed in a utopian America.
What comes next? Is it just new brands in new stores appealing to a new generation that looks the same and kinda is the same? There are plenty of new designers out there, plenty of casual clothing, plenty of cash just pushing to build these brands but where is the savvy garmento who understands trends, brand building and making money at the same time?
Where is the next Ralph Lauren?