It’s no secret (unless it is and this is the biggest investigative journalism scoop I’ve ever had) that most high fashion labels are not run by the name they’re akin to. Karl Lagerfeld’s real name isn’t Chanel, and Hedi Slimane isn’t secretly Yves Saint Laurent. We know this, this is common sense. But now someone else will be designing for Ralph Lauren.
For realsies. Yesterday it was announced that after 50 years at the label, Ralph Lauren would be stepping down as CEO of the company, and has enlisted Stefan Larsson (of Old Navy) to replace him. Lauren will still stay on as executive chairman and chief creative officer, but this is the first time he won’t be CEO of his own company (obviously).
In an interview with WWD, Lauren said that Larsson “brings something special” and that he “has the sensitivity of design and of building a business and growing companies.”
“That’s rare in our business,” he continued. “Usually, it’s one or the other.”
Lauren also explained that he won’t be coming in “two days a week” or that we can consider him to be semi-retired: dude is done. He’s passing the torch. It’s onto the next.
Okay, so what do we know about Larsson, then?
“I had dinner with Ralph, the most iconic American fashion designer,” he recalled. “Our meeting had a big impact on me; I think we started speaking dreams minutes into the dinner. Dreams and realizing that Ralph has made more in his life so far than anybody can ever dream of and here he is, speaking about growing the business, speaking about generations, speaking about stories. And I was just moved by that.”
So, what does this mean?
Well, it means that Ralph Lauren, in some capacity will be moving in a slightly different direction. The best CEOs and design think-tanks don’t copy or impersonate the people who came before them; they add to existing ideas and make them their own. Fortunately, Larsson’s son is already on the board, so it’s not like Larsson’s a stranger to the brand, but still: this is a really big deal.
I mean, Ralph Lauren is an iconic company that’s been spearheaded by an iconic figure. Remember when he was on Friends? (And Rachel told her boss she made out with him?) Exactly. So while it’s exciting to know that the brand is moving in a new direction, it’s also appropriate to pour one out for the past.
Although that being said, it’s exciting to think of how the All-American aesthetic will be re-imaged in 2016 and beyond.