Everyone knows the name Ralph Lauren. Many peopleknow that he was born Ralphie Lifshitz. But not even Lauren himself knows the extra-ordinary history of his ancestry. And until now, no one really knew how this pint-size nebbish rose from the Jewish ghetto of the Bronx and turned himself from a yarmulke-topped yeshiva boy into the world's leading purveyor of old-money-WASP style. Genuine Authentic is that story.
Horatio Alger, step aside. Lauren, the descendant of generations of eastern European rabbis, is the embodiment of modern ambition. He stands as a symbol of the awesome rewards of self-invention -- and not just because he turned a talent for designing ties into a ten-billion-dollar international business. He also demonstrates how precarious success is, how hard a road life can be even for the driven.
Lauren is considered by many to be a phony and a copycat. Yet even though he made up his name and nearly went bankrupt trying to live up to it, he can't be dismissed as a mere fake. His products have revolutionized the way almost everything is sold and the way great brands are built. Like Henry Ford and Walt Disney, he's also a real American authentic. And his business is a stunning American success.
There are at least two Ralph Laurens. To the public he's a gentle, modest, yet secure and purposeful man. Inside the walls of Polo Ralph Lauren, though, he's seen by some as a narcissist, an insecure ditherer, and at times a rampaging tyrant.
Michael Gross, author of the bestseller Model, lays bare the truths of this fashion emperor's rise, and reveals not only the secrets of his stunning success in marketing our shared fantasies but also the darker side that's hidden behind the shiny patrician image.
Gross uncovers the essence of Lauren's carefully cultivated mystique: how he has turned his back on his own surprisingly aristocratic heritage to embrace another, more commercially viable, one; how he's built an image of luxury and wealth on a foundation of almost anonymous commodities, basic items of clothing like polo shirts and khaki pants, sold mostly in low-priced outlets, and seen everywhere from the subway to the world stage.
It wasn't easy. Along the way, Lauren conquered self-doubt and survived business reverses, even several brushes with bankruptcy. Genuine Authentic follows Lauren through an unhappy childhood and confused adolescence -- torn between an immigrant culture and his material desires -- to fame as a gray-haired thirty-something, and, finally, to the man he is today.
In recent years, after surviving brain tumor surgery, Lauren suffered from a massive midlife crisis, finding solace with a beautiful blond model. He survived that, too, and in the nineties took his company public, making him a billionaire but creating a whole new set of challenges to confront, new horizons to conquer, starting with Wall Street, and then on to the rest of the world.
Phony? Or the real thing? It's all here. You decide.