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#288 Ralph Lauren


What I learned from reading Ralph Lauren: The Man Behind the Mystique by Jeffrey Trachtenberg.


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[2:01] When I lumped him together with a handful of other designers during casual conversation, he snapped: “Don't put me with those designers. My business is not compared to anybody else's."

[3:00] In practice Ralph Lauren is a tough, intensely ambitious businessman.

[3:00] Ralph has always possessed immense self-confidence; it is central to his character, an asset as valuable as his sense of color, fabric, style.

[4:00] Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie. (Founders #199)

[7:00] Few outsiders understood fully how lucrative the licensing business had become. Ralph would have been a successful designer in his own right. However, he would never have qualified as one of the world's richest men without licensees willing to pay him 5 to 7 percent of sales.

[7:00] His privately held fashion empire was on the brink of bankruptcy. Geffen surmised that the company should be transformed from a manufacturing firm to a design, marketing, and licensing company. "You guys stink at manufacturing," he said. "You need to get out of that business." Instead, Geffen continued, the company needed to focus on what it really knew: how to design and market the Calvin Klein brand name. — The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells The New Hollywood by Tom King

[14:00] When my customers come to me, they like to cross the threshold of some magic place; they feel a satisfaction that is perhaps a trace vulgar but that delights them: they are privileged characters who are incorporated into our legend. For them this is a far greater pleasure than ordering another suit.” —Coco Chanel, 1935

[16:00] What he lacked in experience he compensated it for an energy and enthusiasm.

[17:00] Differentiation is survival. — Jeff Bezos Jeff Bezos' Shareholder Letters (Founders #282)

[19:00] Mediocrity is always invisible until passion shows up and exposes it.

[22:00] From the beginning I've been aware of the need to sell everybody. — Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys by Joe Coulombe. (Founders #188)

[26:00] Difference for the sake of it. In everything. Because it must be better. From the moment the idea strikes, to the running of the business. Difference, and retention of total control. — Against The Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson (Founders #200)

[28:00] Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony by Akio Morita. (Founders #102)

[32:00] Intransigence is my only weapon. — Charles de Gaulle by Julian Jackson. (Founders #224)

[41:00] It's torture being a partner to somebody you don't want to be a partner with.

[45:00] On a Thursday night he wins an award for best men’s wear designer. The next day he could not meet his payroll.

[49:00] When bills come due, only cash is legal tender. Don't leave home without it. — The Essays of Warren Buffett by Warren Buffett and Lawrence Cunningham. (Founders #227)

[54:00] You can make a lot of different mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you’re too inefficient. — Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton.

[55:00] The thing that set Ralph apart was his single-mindedness of purpose. Everybody else moved from place to place, from trend to trend. He wasn't trendy. He stayed with it. It's the single most important thing about him. To this day there are people walking around saying Ralph Lauren isn't that special, I could have done it. It's the weirdest thing. They couldn't be more wrong. Ralph is the most special guy in the apparel business.

[55:00] Graham Duncan on the Tim Ferriss Show


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