Ralph Lauren CEO leaves

Mr Stefan Larsson's (above left) ideas did not work for Ralph Lauren (above right).
Mr Stefan Larsson's (above left) ideas did not work for Ralph Lauren (above right).PHOTO: NYTIMES

Mr Stefan Larsson is parting ways with the American fashion house because of creative differences with its founder

NEW YORK • When Mr Stefan Larsson joined Ralph Lauren as its chief executive less than two years ago to work beside the fashion house's founder, he had big ideas for transforming the stagnant brand's offerings into must-have clothing for the 21st century.

But as it turned out, all of his ideas did not work for Lauren.

Citing creative differences between them, the company said on Thursday that Mr Larsson would leave on May 1, an abrupt shake-up for one of the country's most recognisable brands.

"Stefan and I share a love and respect for the DNA of this great brand and we both recognise the need to evolve," Lauren said in a statement.

"However, we have found that we have different views on how to evolve the creative and consumer- facing parts of this business."

The shake-up adds uncertainty about the future of Ralph Lauren. Like many other brands that helped put American fashion on the global map, it has recently struggled to reinvent itself.

That struggle has been exacerbated by the global slowdown in high-end fashion, resulting from currency fluctuations and consumer unease, that has increased pressure to upset the status quo.

A result has been a rash of executive moves in the industry on the creative and corporate sides.

But the move at Ralph Lauren also points to a truism of the industry: that it is often difficult for fashion founders to cede control of their businesses.

Diane von Furstenberg, for example, went through a string of design heirs and recently agreed to part ways with a chief executive.

After decades leading the company, Lauren left the chief executive job when Mr Larsson joined the business at the end of 2015.

Long resistant to appointing someone else as a chief executive, Lauren's decision to appoint Mr Larsson was considered an acknowledgment that the brand needed a makeover.

His brand has mined a stable of core items such as polo shirts, Gatsby gowns and Western denim for years. Some of those items have struggled to remain relevant as fast-fashion, e-commerce and an emerging generation of new designers have transformed where and how people shop.

Last June, Mr Larsson unveiled the company's "Way Forward Plan", pledging to focus on the creative and practical sides of the business.

Drawing from the fast-fashion model, the company needed more surprising designs and a quicker way to get them to shoppers.

The path, however, has been bumpy and his departure is the latest example.

During a call with analysts on Thursday, Mr Larsson said he and Lauren had worked "very hard to find common ground" over the last few months.

The company said that Ms Jane H. Nielsen, the chief financial officer, would lead operations during the search for a new chief.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'Ralph Lauren CEO leaves'. Print Edition | Subscribe