Ralph Lauren is stepping down from his eponymous brand as Chief Executive Officer and will be succeeded by Gap Inc executive Stefan Larsson. This is a post only Lauren himself has held in the near-50 year history of his iconic fashion company. Lauren scouted around for CEO candidates for a longtime with a checklist of “prerequisites” for a successor. “Shared spirit” was at the top of his list and something that Lauren feels he shares with Larsson. “Stefan has the sensitivity of design and of building a business and growing companies. That’s rare in our business.”
Larsson has been the Global President of Old Navy for 3 years. Under his direction, they have had three consecutive years of profitable growth, including $1bn in sales, becoming a strong point for the trouble Gap Inc group. He was also previously part of the senior team at H&M that turned the retailer into a global power. Larrson will be “looking at what the next steps are and how to keep the company growing and what our future is going to be.” When having dinner with Ralph, they started “speaking dreams minutes into the dinner. Dreams and realising that Ralph has made more in his life so far than anybody can ever dream of and here he is speaking about the business, speaking about generations, speaking about stories”.
Lynette Deutsch, CEO and Founder of Endaba, commented on the qualities presented by both these influential leaders: “These ephemeral qualities of leadership, such as spirit, attitude, sensitivity, and dreams, whilst some may consider them soft and fluffy, although they are not quantifiable, they actually make people and business great and powerful. All great leaders and innovators built things from their dreams and amazing ideas – they realised them and did whatever it took to make them a reality. That’s what great leadership is all about and that’s what Lauren has done – he personifies ‘The American Dream’. Lauren has truly built a great brand and passion like his, as a leader, is invaluable to business. We could all learn from him.”
There is some contention, as Larsson has led a value, fast-fashion brand, what can he do for luxury? But Larsson’s international brand will be key to Ralph Lauren as it continues with its global expansion and the transition of its operating model to its global brands inititiave, which has resulted in some loss in sales.
Ralph Lauren will remain Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer when Larsson adopts his role in November. Jackwyn Nemerov, currently president and Chief Operating Officer for the brand, is also retiring and will be an advisor to the company.
Jill Stanton, Executive Vice President of Global Product, will lead the division in the interim, reporting to Gap Inc. chief executive officer Art Peck, whilst they search for Larsson’s successor.