Ralph Lauren, who created one of the first aspirational fashion labels, has relayed the torch to Stefan Larsson, former Old Navy and H&M head honcho.  As global president of Old Navy, Larsson achieved three consecutive years of growth and a total of $1bn in sales. Prior to that he was responsible for the colossal H&M sales which grew from $3bn to $17bn and the Swedish brand’s expansion appearing in 12 to 44 countries.

With his new hand-picked successor,  Ralph Lauren will remain the executive chairman and chief creative officer, keeping a hand in the company he founded nearly 50 years ago but also opening it up to new ideas for growth. Some senior fashion insiders thought we would be bidding adieu to the godfather of gorgeous garments today. Not happening. Ralph Lauren will remain an active part of the fashion empire he created by serving in a dual role of chairman and head of design. Sporting a double-breasted navy suit, the silver-haired Ralph Lauren confirmed his resignation as the head of the global fashion brand he started in 1967

Arnaldo_Anaya_Lucca_w_Ralph_Lauren1

Arnaldo Anaya Lucca and Ralph Lauren

The fashion icon stated at a press conference yesterday: “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.”

In response to Ralph Lauren’s statement, Stefan Larsson heaped praise on his predecessor by saying: “[Ralph Lauren’s] creativity and singular vision have made one of the world’s most influential global brands, and I share his dreams for the future.”

The hand-over does not come without controversy.  Robin Lewis, CEO of The Robin Report and co-author of “The New Rules of Retail – Competing in the World’s Toughest Marketplace” challenges Ralph Lauren’s move from building an unassailable brand around selling the trappings of aspirational lifestyles to falling into the discount deep end.  Lewis calls Ralph Lauren’s maneuver “a race to the bottom that by definition ultimately devalues the brand”.

Stefan Larsson becomes the company’s second-ever CEO in its 48-year history.