Ralph Lauren | WWD 2002 Retrospective


Having worked at Polo Ralph Lauren from 1997-2001, I am filled with great memories of all the incredibly talented people, the magic of the 650 Madison offices, and most of all– the power of the brand.  Never before or since have I even come close to experiencing anything like it.  When you work for Ralph, you’re definitely part of something much bigger than yourself.  And it’s very true what they say– working for Ralph is like attending Polo University.  It trains your eye and taste level like no other place, and is considered the one of best “finishing schools” in the industry.  Just be strong enough to maintain your own sense of individuality and point of view–  

If everyone has the same exact tastes & opinions– someone is obsolete.

I stumbled across this old May 14th, 2002 WWD Milestones issue that celebrates Ralph Lauren’s history, career & contributions– and thoroughly enjoyed the little trip down memory lane. At the time that it came out I had a much different reaction though. It was not long after I had left Ralph and still struggling with whether I had done the right thing or not– seeing this larger-than-life article was like a punch in the stomach. I remember thinking– what did I do.  Life is good, I’m happy, can’t complain. But I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had never left. No regrets though. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason, and I truly appreciate all the experiences that I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with– and there’s a lot of good stuff still ahead.


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To read more on Ralph’s history and influence click here.

8 thoughts on “Ralph Lauren | WWD 2002 Retrospective

  1. Hope you enjoy it. Click on the images and they’ll get bigger for ya. It’s an interesting read if you’re into Ralph.

  2. It’s always interesting to read about him. What I wanna know is, what’s it like to work for him. I don’t work in the business but am amazed at the power this guy has. On everyone. The press, the retailers, the PR folks. No one will utter a critical word.

    When Polo sewed the Old Guard unit insignia on the rear end of some cargo shorts I called ’em on it. The Old Guard is the ceremonial unit at the Tomb of the Unknown. Polo blew me off and I spoke to a friend at the Pentagon who put me in touch with the folks at DoD who protect this stuff from happening.

    It’s a bloody long story but the upshot is — clothing with military insignia continues to sold by Polo and while DoD pursues the small fry aggresively – – it lets Polo go.

    It’s a sensitive issue for me as a veteran. Lots of folks in your business concurred with me but not a one would speak out. The press wouldn’t go near this. That’s huge power. Heck, if you delete this I’ll understand.

  3. Wow, that’s an interesting and personal story, thanks. And one that I’ve never heard before. I respect you for speaking out.

    I’m sure this never reached Ralph’s ear, there are many filters at a company as big as Polo. It makes me look at “military patches as fashion” with an even more critical eye. Somethings you definitely have to earn the right to bear.

  4. Damn, thanks a lot! This stuff is way more in depth than my interest in RL, which ends at a couple of the classic polos that I have had since High School, but cool nonetheless.

  5. “If everyone has the same exact tastes & opinions– someone is obsolete.”

    JP-totally understand where you’re coming from as a former employee and it’s good to see that we are of similar sentiment. It is a good experience from a business and design standpoint, and if anything, allows you to realize who you truly are and what you want to become.

  6. I worked there a long time ago, and see now that it was probably the best company I will ever work for. However……

    If you had the right name, or the right look, or the right ancestors, and you kept your mouth shut, you could rise quite quickly and stay in a job for many years. But the same independent minds that keep quitting RL and starting their own brands, or blogs, or movie careers, cannot by nature stay inside a company that is almost suffocating in its daily self-immersion in a lifestyle. The mahoghany walled offices and their endless supply of 31-year-old Alexas and Prestons, with cable knit sweaters stuffed into 28-inch waist khakis, and those inanely smiling faces, are silent suffering under the rule of too much RL. They know, deep down, they are mere forms playing dress up to please the administration. And they despise themselves for having no backbone. But how that big title and big 401K can tame them!

    Nobody will ever equal in quality or quantity what RL does, and his contribution to American retail creativity is immense. But one cannot be an individual in this organization unless one started from the very beginning and is a recognized eccentric or expert in collecting and spouting the ephemera of Americana.

    I think you made the right decision, and its time for you to look forward again and put the patina of nostalgia for the lost opportunities away.

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