Ralph Lauren spent his life creating a luxury brand. But Wall Street seems determined to lump his company in with the fickle apparel business.
For three decades Ralph Lauren ran his own show, parlaying a $50,000 loan and a knack for neckties into a multibillion-dollar fashion empire. As he expanded into duds for men, women and kids and moved into perfume, luxury housewares and other items in 60 lines spanning thousands of products, the Bronx-bred designer answered to no one.His genius was to sell image, not products, and the image was redolent of English landed gentry. That gave him and his Polo brand a certain consistency in an American market that was usually a slave to trendiness and the flavor of the moment.
Then Lauren took on a not-so-silent partner:Wall Street. He pocketed almost half a billion dollars in an initial public offering, plus a further ...
Stock market fluctuations may cause jitters, but what really has Wall Streeters floundering is the latest decree from the powers-that-be at a growing number of firms. Places such as J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs have recently declared a 24/7 DD policy (that’s dress-down in layman’s terms, and we’re not just talking Fridays), and it’s rumored that Credit Suisse/First Boston and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter are to follow suit. “It’s a total crisis,” says Lincoln Ellis of Morgan Stanley. “Everybody’s freaking out. You should see Fridays as is. They’re a total fashion disaster.”
Fashion Crisis on Wall Street
Whatever is a boy to do? We asked Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York for counsel. “Don’t be fashion-y if you don’t feel it. Think of the American film heroes of the 40’s and 50’s: Robert Mitchum, William Holden. Otherwise you’ll to end up looking like one of the guys from The Sopranos.” “Which,” he added, “is a valid look, but not right for finance.”
Other wisdom from Doonan: “Top-Siders are a real drag,” and “Avoid sock exposure.”
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