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Design byte

Ralph Lauren

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I elevated the taste level of America. -- Ralph Lauren in The End of Fashion by Teri Agins

Whether it's status paint or the fragrance of old money you're after, Ralph Lauren is your man. After all, his innovations some 30 years ago led the path to "lifestyle merchandising" and paved the way for imitators like Tommy Hilfiger.

Lauren's lush ads, comprehensive offerings that portray a rugged romance and timeless elegance all present the seamless front of a wealthy, adventurous lifestyle.

His designs -- from jeans to collection pieces -- are known for their classic pedigree and easy chic.

Vital stats

Honors: Seven-time Coty Fashion Critics award; CFDA Lifetime Achievement Awards, 1992

Education:  City College of New York

Born: 1939

Started in the business: Started as a store salesperson. Moved on to a tie salesman, then a neckwear designer for Polo Neckwear.

Known for: All-American, timeless sportswear

What you might not know about him

  • His real last name is Lifshitz
  • His company, Polo, was first to create multi-page ads that tell a "story."
  • His wife's name is Ricky and they've been married for 35+ years.
  • The customer he designs for: People more concerned with a lifestyle than fashion itself.
  • Notable quote: "I've lived through the frenzies of over 100 designers. Some make it, some don't. What I admire is consistency, a builder. Certain names don't disappear." Lauren in W.

Famous clients

Gwyneth Paltrow, Debra Messing

How you can get the look

  • Think rich -- as in colors and fabrics: espresso, chocolate, velvet, leather.
  • Update your classics with new modern pieces (add a mini and tights with knee-high boots to a trench; sub a floor-sweeping coat for a regular blazer)
  • Dress as if you already have the lifestyle. Don't own a horse? Who cares!? Go for equestrian chic anyway.
  • Choose well-bred sportswear that doesn't arrive before you do. The secret to looking like a million bucks is choosing understated, but luxurious pieces (drape, fabric, color) that complement, rather overpower your good looks.

About Design Byte

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