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Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph…
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Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren

by Michael Gross

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  Suzanne_Mitchell | Dec 29, 2013 |
An offbeat choice for me; I picked it up in a used bookstore while traveling, though I did briefly cover the garment industry as a reporter.

The value to me was the insight into how the fashion industry works. What's licensing mean? What are all the different divisions between couture and K-mart quality? How does a tie salesman with a sense of style become a men's and women's clothing designer? Is he really a designer?

Actually, I don't think the last question was answered. Gross would have done better to compare the way Lauren works with a designer with proper training.

However, to back up: given that Lauren wouldn't collaborate (though Gross had interviewed him previously) and many current and former minions wouldn't talk either, Gross certainly learned a lot. He even interviewed neighbors from Lauren (Ralph Lifshitz)'s humble boyhood Bronx home. We get background on Lauren's immigrant parents, and a distinguished maternal ancestry. Lauren attended yeshiva school in his early years; He speaks Hebrew!

No surprise that Lauren is a tyrannical megalomaniac with an insatiable hunger for cars, property, antiques clothing and all sorts of other stuff. He's very self-conscious about his shortness.The miracle, especially in his early years, is that (not sure why) some financial whizzes pulled h him from the brink of bankruptcy.

For me, that's where it got interesting: how licensing the middle women's wear lines (see, I've forgotten the terminology already) turned on the cash flow. How much revenue comes from his own factory outlet stores. How another considerable chunk comes from sales of khakis and polo shirts--the boring basics I'd mistake for LL Bean or whatever.

I'm left still wondering about Gross's estimation of Lauren's talents. Are they considerable? Or was Lauren mostly lucky? Maybe his talent is just spotting the taste to come. I find it incredible--not quite believable--that he could repeatedly make the error of using a fit model (his wife and others with similar bodies) so far removed from the bodies of the final buyers. Was that much stuff really returned from stores?

FWIW, though Lauren seems pretty boring (he doesn't seem to read, extremely shy), there is the one verifiable juicey bit of gossip: after brain surgery in the 1990s, Lauren had an affair with one of these fit models (and, boy, is Gross mean about her looks).

In short, for someone not in the fashion or garment industry, I think this is a painless into to a lot of the processes and terms. ( )
1 vote Periodista | Jan 5, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060958480, Paperback)

There are at least two Ralph Laurens.

To the public he's a gentle, modest, yet secure and purposeful man. Inside the walls of Polo Ralph Lauren, though, he's seen by some as a narcissist, an insecure ditherer, and, at times, a rampaging tyrant.

Michael Gross, author of the bestseller Model, lays bare the truths of this fashion emperor's rise, and reveals not only the secrets of his stunning success in marketing our shared fantasies but also a darker side that's hidden behind the chic patrician façade.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Traces the origins and rise of the self-made fashion tycoon, describing his disadvantaged Bronx childhood, his early tie designs, the secrets of his success, and the scandals that marked his career and private life.

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