What Happens When the Brand Loses Its Man?
With Ralph Lauren the man retiring from Ralph Lauren the company, our guest writer is left wondering: what happens to the brand once the man leaves the helm?
Yesterday, Ralph Lauren, the man, announced his retirement as CEO from Ralph Lauren, the company.
Through the clothing label’s evolution over the past five decades from one-man band to multinational corporation, Mr. Lauren himself has been the driving force behind Ralph Lauren’s style, brand and ethos. His cool, American styling epitomised the country club rebel aesthetic that he seemed to stand for and his presence – at Fashion Weeks, at events and even in a cameo on ‘90s super-show Friends (when Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel worked there as a buyer) – made brand and man almost inextricable.
In fairness, Lauren has not completely abandoned his namesake. He will continue with the brand in ‘partnership’ with incumbent CEO Stefan Larsonn, himself somewhat a celebrity CEO in fashion brand circles, having Old Navy and H&M as notches on his new Ralph Lauren belt. This does not, however, quell the whispers – what will things be like once this new order comes into being?
As this fantastic piece by the New York Times so eloquently highlights, many of the CEOs responsible for the world’s obsession with logo-emblazoned t-shirts have stepped down from their posts in recent years. Donna Karan is no longer at Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein left Calvin Klein more than a decade ago.
But, while Ms. Karan is almost as synonymous with her former brand as Mr. Lauren, it seems this retirement is being felt a little more resoundingly throughout the world. Lauren is the American casual man. A little bit country, a little bit country club, he’s everything his brand aspires to be, and speculators are left wondering how a corporate type, no matter how technically masterful, will be able to fill the void left by a man who is both visionary and ambassador.
The fact remains, though, that Ralph Lauren (the man) is almost 30 years older than Ralph Lauren (the brand), so it is inevitable that he would need to move away from the day-to-day business workings of his international preppy-formal empire.
But when a brand loses its man, how will it fare going forward? Only time will tell, and the marketers will be watching.Back to Posts