If American fashion had a Mount Rushmore, Ralph Lauren's face would be stone-cold and 60-ft high. And this supreme stylemaker's story is truly one of rags-to-riches.
Sometimes, you just know what you're meant to do in life.
Ralph Lauren was an insecure kid from the Bronx but one with a great sense of style. He became known by his classmates for selling ties to fellow students. Six decades later, he's still selling ties -- and a lot more.
Not that it was easy. Ralph dropped out of college, joined the army and later worked for years as a salesman for a tie company. Those sales skills would eventually pay major dividends for his career.
When he presented his idea for a line of neckwear, his idea was shot down immediately as not being "commercially viable". So he struck out on his own and working from a single drawer, he literally took rags (he couldn't afford fabric), turned them into ties and sold them to small shops in New York City. His determination eventually led to a order from Neiman Marcus.
And his entrepreneurial nerve could never be questioned. When a powerful Bloomingdale's buyer insisted Ralph change the look and name of his ties, he flat-out refused. Six months later, they caved and placed a huge order.
He also came close to losing everything after a series of financial missteps. He literally put his last penny back into the business to pay company bills. And it all paid off because he bet on himself.
His fashions have kept generations of men and woman stylish and confident. He doesn't just design mere clothing or goods - he creates aspiration.
Oh, and one other thing about Ralph's high school years. His yearbook ambition was "To be a millionaire." -- a goal he would surpass thousands of times over to become one of the 300 richest persons in the world.
Not bad for a guy who started by cutting up some old fabric scraps.
John is Columbia Business School MBA with expertise in marketing, business leadership, and law. John is a successful entrepreneur who took his first company public. He currently resides in New York City.