Ralph Lauren officially stepped down from his position as CEO at his eponymous company last week. Despite the change, Lauren is not leaving the company entirely. Instead he will be staying on as executive chairman and chief creative officer of the brand. The title of CEO has been handed down to Stefan Larsson Global Brand President of Old Navy. Vice President Jill Stanton will temporarily lead Old Navy, until they find a replacement for Larsson.
Larsson has been praised for his ability to maintain financial success with the down market brand despite struggles throughout Gap, Inc. to regain their footing as a casual-cool company. By creating a more diverse selection of products, like expanding their sportswear line and the viral commercials featuring Amy Poehler and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Old Navy has managed to find success while other fast fashion brands have been struggling.
The move to bring in a new CEO clearly points to wanting to improve the financials of the company, but whether or not Larsson will be able to do that is something no one can predict. Despite his success with Old Navy and H&M, where he worked for 15 years before taking over at Old Navy, Ralph Lauren is a luxury brand and handling it will be different than the fast fashion market he’s used to. The hope is that the savvy smarts of Larsson will mix well with Lauren’s creativity.
The Washington Post reported that Larsson will be taking on the brands issues in retailing. The company relies heavily on tourist sales and may be pushing away customers with their lack of promotional pricing. Larsson’s global perspective and techniques in developing the labels of a brand could help to draw more customers to Lauren’s Americana style.
The company also recently hired Valerie Hermann, a former executive chief of Yves Saint Laurent. She is now the president of the Ralph Lauren Luxury Collections. Both these changes in the company’s leadership seem to be a positive step towards maintaining the brands luxury status while creating a solid foundation in marketing and retail for the brand to continue on from it’s 48-year legacy.
Starting as a small-tie business, Lauren’s brand has grown on the imagery and style of Americana, frequently giving off the feel of country clubs, prairie life and the Ivy League. The brand is now a giant including multiple labels under its name. Lauren was part of the defining generation of American fashion designers including Donna Karen, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. They are the ones who built the industry into what it is today, with ventures into interior design, accessories and overall a billion dollar business.
Both Karen and Klein have stepped down from their positions at their respective brands recently as well. Lauren’s move seems to be much more promising though. With him remaining within the company he will be able to focus on his creative force to maintain the brand’s aesthetic while also exploring new trends without juggling several roles within the company at once. “When they start designing things I don’t understand, I’ll quit,” said Lauren to the New York Times.