Will a new CEO bring fast fashion to Ralph Lauren?

Andy Uhler Sep 30, 2015
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Will a new CEO bring fast fashion to Ralph Lauren?

Andy Uhler Sep 30, 2015
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Talk to anyone in retail, and it probably won’t be long before the conversation turns to fast fashion. Barbara Kahn, director of the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School, said that’s what’s selling these days.

Think Forever 21, Zara, H&M.

Fast fashion is also where Stefan Larsson, the incoming CEO of Ralph Lauren, made his name. But, said Kahn, that doesn’t mean that’s where Ralph Lauren is headed. At least not right away.

“Gucci had a CEO from Unilever, and it didn’t mean Gucci was going to go into soap,” she said.

Kahn said the brand, which includes Polo, Ralph Lauren Black Label, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Club Monaco and many more, is so big it’s not just a matter of embracing a new fashion trend.

“It’s a very broad brand, and that’s very difficult to manage,” she said. “It goes from collection all the way down to outlet. I think it’s more about being true to the brand.”

But Barbara Thau, who writes about retail for Forbes.com, thinks the brand could use some retooling. And sales have been slipping.  

“The mono-brand, the look, the lifestyle — that whole cookie-cutter aesthetic is waning,” she said. “Luxury signifies individuality and not sameness.”

The man who started it all isn’t going anywhere. Lauren, 75, will stay on as executive chairman, with only slightly less at stake. Last week he sold 50,000 shares in his company for more than $5 million. But maybe he should have waited. The stock was up nearly 14 percent Wednesday.


Correction: A previous version of this post misspelled Barbara Kahn’s name. The text has been corrected.

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