Fashioning the future: At 80, Ralph Lauren is facing his namesake company’s toughest chapter yet

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Ralph Lauren loves to tell a story about his earliest days in the clothing business. It was 1967.  He had designed some ties, wider than most and made of unconventional fabrics, and was selling them to a few stores in Manhattan under the new brand name he had chosen, Polo. He especially wanted to sell them to Bloomingdale’s—“the hottest store in America,” he recalled as he told the story to a group of investors and Wall Street analysts more than 50 years later. The Bloomingdale’s buyer said he liked the ties and would buy them if Lauren did two things: make

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