From a niche, to an empire
I remember when I was a kid, I always wanted to dress like those great bankers with their fancy suits and ties. As I entered the working world, I thought I could fulfill my goal of wearing a tie, like those great bankers I saw as a child.
The first challenge to look like those bankers was to learn how to tie a tie, and for this, I had to do some research. Between the Windsor, half-Windsor and Trinity knot, I could see that the tie had an interesting history, going back from being used by Croatian soldiers to French aristocrats and its later modernization, which we use today. But among all the stories, the most interesting is how a man started a tie business and, in his journey, ended up being a benchmark in the fashion industry and a world-class brand.
This story begins in New York City, where the world-renowned brand Polo by Ralph Lauren Corp (NYSE: RL) was born by the hand of the New Yorker Ralph Lauren, who, since he was a child, had a clear goal, he wanted to be a millionaire. The journey began in his youth, after working in multiple fashion houses and for a tie manufacturer. During this process, Ralph realized that he could create new models, that there was an opportunity, and that he should seize it.
Ralph Lauren thought at the time, “I already sell ties; I should start designing them because there are so many things that could be done better. I don’t have any training in design, I didn’t know how to sew or sketch, but I have the eye.” This inspired Ralph to design his own line of ties. This would mark a milestone, for the beginning of one of the most prestigious and recognized houses in the world, with a strong and undoubted international presence.
At that time, Ralph Lauren went directly in opposition to the narrow-cut ties, breaking the traditional standards. He began designing and creating handmade, wide-cut ties using innovative, eye-catching and opulent materials, and the Polo brand emerged (NYSE: RL). The ties were a hit, reaching sales of $500,000 in their first year. But a problem emerged: the design of his wide-cut ties did not match the pattern of existing shirts on the market. This forced Ralph Lauren to go to the next level and start designing shirts that would work with his ties.
As time went on, the Polo brand continued to grow. A year later, he introduced the first full collection for men, including garments such as a white flannel suit or dress shirts made with casual fabrics to bring “more romanticism.” He wanted to create something that would excite him and subsequently created his first women’s line where for the first time, he showed the iconic polo player logo on a horse.
The brand quickly became a prestige item in the apparel world by leading the way and revolutionizing fashion in the United States, thanks to its ingenuity in combining classic American style with the elegance, cut and sensibility of European fashion.
Polo (NYSE: RL) is the story of how Ralph Lauren took a niche market and turned it into an international fashion empire, proving that it is possible to find opportunities and grow from them.