75 years ago, the fashion designer formerly known as Ralph Lifshitz was born in The Bronx. Today, the icon that is Ralph Lauren—tie salesman turned fashion designer, philanthropist, lifestyle brand and business phenomenon—announced that he is stepping down as CEO of his global multi-billion-dollar company.
Come November, that title will be held by the Swedish-born Stefan Larsson, an H&M veteran who joined Gap Inc. in 2012 and is now global president of Old Navy—the shining star in Gap Inc.’s family of apparel brands.
While Lauren will stay on as Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer “to continue to actively drive the company’s vision and strategy,” he also told WWD a week after his Spring 2016 runway show at New York Fashion Week (and in the wake of launching a private club at Milan Fashion Week) that he’s looking forward to letting someone else run the day to day business while he continues to think big and make sure his legacy continues to grow.
“This is important to say: There is no toe in the water,” said Lauren, whose son David will continue as EVP to oversee global marketing, digital and the company’s philanthropic investments. “I won’t be coming in two days a week.”
As for why Larsson, Lauren added that “Stefan brings something special. [He] has the sensitivity of design and of building a business and growing companies. That’s rare in our business. Usually, it’s one or the other.”
Still, why hire someone with a background in fast fashion instead of luxury to take over his eponymous brand?
The iconic American designer told WWD that Larsson shared “the spirit similar to how I built my company—and it was spirit, because I certainly didn’t have the money and the history and the background. But I knew I had something.”
With his last day at Gap Inc. on Friday, Larsson is joining Ralph Lauren at a time when the company’s stock has been declining (see below), with investors eager to see more innovation and fresh ideas to reinvigorate the purveyor of the preppy-meets-luxe lifestyle.
Still, as Lauren told WWD, “I’ve been through it before. I’ve been up and down and up. This is my life, this is what I do. I design, I create. But I also built a big business. I built one of the most successful businesses in America, and maybe the world.”
Below, the press release announcing his successor:
RALPH LAUREN NAMES STEFAN LARSSON CEO; WILL CONTINUE TO LEAD COMPANY AS EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER
Larsson Brings Proven Record of Success Growing Major Global Apparel Brands
NEW YORK–Sep. 29, 2015– Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL) today announced that Stefan Larsson, one of the most successful executives in the fashion industry, has been named Chief Executive Officer. His appointment will become effective in November, at which time he will also join the Ralph Lauren Corporation board. Larsson will report to Ralph Lauren, who will continue to actively drive the company’s vision and strategy as Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer.
Stefan Larsson most recently served as the Global President of Old Navy, a division of Gap Inc. Under his leadership, Old Navy enjoyed three consecutive years of profitable growth, adding $1 billion in sales. Previously, in 15 years at Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), Larsson was part of the team that grew sales from $3 billion to $17 billion and expanded the company’s operations from 12 to 44 countries.
Ralph Lauren said: “My job is to think always about the future of our company and how to move it forward. Stefan Larsson is exceptionally talented, and he will bring our company a fresh and exciting global perspective. Stefan and I have a strong personal bond and share a vision for the future of Ralph Lauren. I appreciate Stefan’s unique sensibility, his honesty and his authenticity. We have had tremendous success expanding the Ralph Lauren brands around the world and creating a great management team. Now, all the pieces are in place to position our business for continued growth. We have been a leader in our industry for nearly 50 years, and this is just the beginning.”
Stefan Larsson said: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work directly and collaboratively with a fashion giant like Ralph Lauren. His creativity and singular vision have made Ralph Lauren one of the world’s most influential global brands, and I share his dreams for the future. I believe the company has tremendous potential to continue expanding in the global marketplace as it broadens its appeal to all consumers.”
David Lauren, a Ralph Lauren Board Member and Executive Vice President said: “I’m excited to welcome Stefan to our team and I look forward to working closely with him. His commitment and passion to build great brands will be invaluable as we move into the future.”
Positioned for Growth
This announcement follows a number of steps the company has taken in recent years to continue to strengthen its industry leadership, reach new consumers and drive the continued growth of Ralph Lauren Corporation, which last year generated $7.5 billion in sales.
In just the past two years, the company, which already boasts some of the world’s most iconic and successful brands, continued to significantly expand its luxury business and added three new brands to its portfolio – Polo for Women, Polo Sport, and Denim and Supply. In addition, Ralph Lauren Corporation has implemented a new global brand management organizational structure and expanded its omnichannel presence to reach new consumers. It has also made important investments in online, mobile and e-commerce to build on its track record of innovation and leadership in technology.
The Company also announced that Jackwyn Nemerov, President and Chief Operating Officer, will retire in November, at which time she will become an advisor to the company. Chris Peterson, President of Global Brands, and Valerie Hermann, President of Luxury Collections, will continue in their current roles reporting to Stefan Larsson.
Ralph Lauren said: “I am deeply grateful to Jacki for her leadership, dedication and tireless commitment to the business and our important customers. Jacki is an extraordinary leader who I respect immensely. She has become a wonderful friend to me and all those fortunate enough to work with her.”
Ralph Lauren Corporation (NYSE:RL) is a leader in the design, marketing and distribution of premium lifestyle products in four categories: apparel, home, accessories and fragrances. For more than 48 years, Ralph Lauren’s reputation and distinctive image have been consistently developed across an expanding number of products, brands and international markets.
The Company’s brand names, which include Polo Ralph Lauren, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Ralph Lauren Collection, Black Label, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Double RL, RLX, Ralph Lauren Childrenswear, Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren, American Living, Chaps and Club Monaco, constitute one of the world’s most widely recognized families of consumer brands.