Ralph Lauren steps down as CEO

By David Bologna, Beauty & Style Editor

In the wake of Donna Karan leaving her legendary label, American fashion pioneer Ralph Lauren has announced his stepping down as CEO of his equally foundational empire. Filling Lauren’s shoes is an unmeasurable feat, and newly appointed CEO Stefan Larsson is no stranger to this.

Having served as Global President of Old Navy since 2012, the 40-year-old Swedish executive’s most notable claim to fame has been his unmatched success at iconic retailer H&M. Under his 15-year leadership and involvement with the department of global expansion, H&M saw a growth in sales from $3 billion to $17 billion along with company operations expanding from a mere 12 countries to 44.

While his previous reputation at both companies is no doubt impressive, Larsson’s fast-fashion background is a rather strategic move made by the Ralph Lauren brand. In April 2014, executive Valerie Hermann was brought on as president of luxury collections. The announcement stressed the brand’s refocusing on upscale labels rather than its lengthy list of 12 additional lines, which include Polo Ralph Lauren, Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco.

As CEO and a member of the board, Larsson will report to Lauren himself who, unlike Karan, plans to continue as executive chairman and chief creative officer. In an article with the New York Times, Lauren explained hopes of the brand evolving both with him in the near future and without him in the long run.

“When they start designing things I can’t understand, I’ll quit,” Lauren said. “But I don’t feel like I’m stepping back now.”

This announcement adds to the list of U.S. fashion houses now being handed down to newer generations. Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan and now Ralph Lauren all rest in the hands of their heirs. While some may nostalgically look back on the days of the original namesakes, it is only right that the American fashion industry evolve in such a way that the rest of the world has evolved.

French labels like Chanel, Celine and Saint Laurent are but a few of the historical European houses run by non-French creative directors. In each brand’s reinvention, the issue of cultural identity has questioned the balance between respectful tradition and radical evolution.

These new, creative minds in the U.S. industry, including Larsson, are now tasked with taking sartorial dreams of the quintessentially American past and modernizing them for the new American audience whose image is not so simple anymore.

Email David Bologna at [email protected]