The Ralph Lauren Family Album

David Lauren Picks His Favorite Images From Ralph Lauren's Rich History

Since launching Polo in 1967, venerated American fashion designer Ralph Lauren has built an archive of imagery that has cemented itself into the American conscience. His son, David Lauren, the company’s current Senior Vice President of Advertising, Marketing and Corporate Communications, grew up surrounded by this particular mythology. Here he divulges some cherished stories behind the brand’s iconic images.

1. Ralph Lauren On Horseback, RRL ranch, 1983, Bruce Weber

My father has always had a love for the West. A friend of his gave him the beat-up cowboy hat he’s wearing in this picture, taken in 1983 at the RRL ranch. Though he started out liking preppy clothes, he was taken by the traditions of the West—the jeans, the boots, the rugged jackets and work shirts that cowboys wear riding the range. That love inspired him to design collections for women and men, and eventually an authentic line—RRL—named after the ranch and launched in 1993.

2. Ralph Lauren Home Collection, “The Heiress,” Fall 2010, François Halard

Ralph Lauren Home Collection was launched in 1983 as the first full line of its kind from a clothing designer. It included bedding, towels, rugs, wall and table top coverings in four of Ralph Lauren’s signature moods. Once again, my father created a vision of a whole life, not just a collection for a bed. The ads were shot in real homes with families and dogs and conveyed a quality of life that people were inspired by. 

3. The Ralph Lauren Timepiece Collection (left), and Nacho Figueras in Polo Black fragrance advert, 2008, shot by Bruce Weber 

My father has always had a love for vintage timepieces. Like the cars he collects, they combine utility and a superior design aesthetic. Working with the greatest timepiece creators in Switzerland, he collaborated on a collection that reflects his vision for quality and luxury, launched in 2008. 

Nacho Figueras, a well-known Argentine polo player, has appeared in our men’s fragrance and clothing ads for many years, and recently in a World of Polo men’s fragrance campaign. He epitomizes many of the men that have modeled in Ralph Lauren ads for the last four decades—surfers, architects, writers and actors. My father always felt that “real people” brought a character to the clothes they were wearing, and life to his cinematic advertising.

4. The Polo Mesh Shirt, 1980

Though Polo was created in 1967, the Polo Pony icon didn't appear until 1971, when it was used on the cuff of women’s tailored shirts. It was followed by the original mesh Polo shirt with a chest logo in 1972, in 24 different colors. The “weathered” mesh was introduced later and was captured in this advert, shot lying on an old leather suitcase in 1980. The advertising line read, “It gets better with age.” And certainly it has. 

5. Clotilde On Safari, 1984, Hawaii, Bruce Weber

Probably one of the most loved and memorable Ralph Lauren advertising campaigns, romanticizing the spirit of an African safari, was actually shot by Bruce Weber in Hawaii in 1984. Clotilde Holby, the beautiful heroine of this campaign and many others, epitomized for my father the timeless beauty of the women he was inspired by and designed for. He only recently traveled to Africa, but this is a dream he has returned to many times.

6. Valentina Zelyaeva in Women’s Collection, Fall 2010, Carter Berg

When he designs a collection, my father always has a heroine in mind. She is for him the star of his movie and expresses what he has to say at a particular time. He studies her character like a director or writer and creates for her and through her. He has said many times, “I build a collection out of a dream. I’m making a movie.” Valentina Zelyaeva is a true Russian beauty who embodies an international spirit. She has been the face of Ralph Lauren women’s collections since 2004. 

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