After 48 years as CEO of his own fashion empire, Ralph Lauren has announced tonight that he will be stepping down from the role and appointing a new successor.
Ralph Lauren, who will turn 76 on October 14th, has been the chief executive and lead designer of the company since he founded it 48 years ago and built it into a global luxury brand. While handing over operational duties, according to multiple reports, Lauren will remain at his company as executive chairman and chief creative officer.
The shock move was just revealed tonight, as Ralph Lauren Corp. said it has hired Stefan Larsson, the global president of Gap Inc.’s Old Navy division, as its chief executive, putting in motion a succession plan for one of the fashion’s biggest companies.
The appointment marks the first time in the brand’s nearly 50-year history that someone other than the iconic designer will hold the CEO position.
However, Lauren was quick to tell WWD that the unexpected move did not mean retirement was beckoning anytime soon. “This is important to say: There is no toe in the water. I love what I’m doing; I love the company…I won’t be coming two days a week,” he said.
Lauren praised Larsson’s business acumen (he brought Gap’s Old Navy division out of troubled times and was with H&M for 15 years prior to that), but said what sealed the appointment was his impression after getting to know Larsson that they hold similar views on the more ephemeral qualities of leadership.
“Stefan brings something special,” Lauren continued. “Stefan 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.”
The move comes amid rumours that Larsson is stepping in at a time when the brand is in some financial difficulty, after its revenue took a dive, according to the New York Times.
This follows a similar move from designer Donna Karen, who announced she would no longer be at the helm of her brand earlier this year.
A major move such as this always signals an exciting change for a brand; we wonder what Larsson will bring to Ralph Lauren? Given his success with high street fashion labels, could we see something in this vein? Time will tell, but it will be very interesting to wait in the wings and witness what unfolds.