After 50 years as CEO and acclaimed icon of the brand, Ralph lauren steps down as CEO. The self-made billionaire is replaced by Stefan Larsson, a veteran of Gap’s downscale Old Navy brand and discount clothing. This Swedish-born fast fashion impresario now has to revive the fortunes of a faltering American clothing empire known for its upscale dreams of country clubs and Western chic.
The combination of sensitivity and smarts has brought great success to Larsson through his career, first at H&M where he worked for over a decade, and then at Old Navy, were he pushed the company to change their strategy and embrace a more aspirational, fashion- conscious approach.
Both Ralph Lauren and Stephan Larsson come from humble beginnings, Larsson was born in a small town in Sweden and Lauren grew up in a working class neighborhood in the Bronx, where he was born Ralph Lifshitz to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. Lauren didn’t go to college. he worked part-time in the garment industry as a teenager and then started a business making ties in the Empire State Building. He got his first break when the giant department store Neiman Marcus ordered 1,200 ties. On the other hand, Stephan Larsson, received a master of science in business administration that he earned jointly from the Hanken School of Economics in Finland and Jönköping International Business School in Sweden.
According to Money.cnn.com , Ralph Lauren missed several growth opportunities. The company wanted to be a big player in luxury and although it still has tremendous cashé, Ralph Lauren struggled in international expansion, specially in Asia. A market that is otherwise booming for luxury and fast fashion brands such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21.
We look back with admiration at 50 years of great style and some of Ralph Lauren’s last runway shows.