Genuine Authentic

Genuine Authentic

The Real Life of Ralph Lauren

The Reviews:
“Deep-dish… A beach book even if it happens to be January… Sharp-clawed [yet] an honestly admiring catalog of his early triumphs… Pits image against reality.” — The New York Times (click here to read the Times review in its entirety)

“Shamelessly dishy… delightfully attuned to irony, and Lauren’s life story is full of it.” — The Washington Post

“Hack(s) through the hype and half-truths… A work of impressive reporting… Mr. Gross tells an engaging story.” — Cathy Horyn, The New York Times

“A dishy (think scandalous affairs and control freakish tantrums) yet balanced portrait.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Meticulous research and artful prose… The crackerjack journalist simultaneously tells a compelling story and gives it meat enough to be satisfying… His subject is intriguing… A rich portrait [with] passages that will delight the celebrity obsessed, but the full story is much richer. Most importantly and delightfully, Gross delivers a portrait of a man who’s constructed a flawless image, but whose real self is far more fascinating and deeply human.” — Publishers Weekly

“Gross dishes fearlessly, while giving credit to the man who reportedly survived an unhappy childhood and brain surgery and lived to see how ‘his products have revolutionized the way almost everything is sold and the way great brands are built.’” — Chicago Tribune

“[A] sympathetic portrait… Gross does a fine job of revealing how the illusion of heritage and luxury, cultivated through lavish runway shows and advertising campaigns, sustains what is essentially a licensing business.” — Booth Moore, The Los Angeles Times

“Admirable… Exhaustive and sometimes masterful reporting.” — New York Observer

“The best summer fashioney read (and by this I mean the gossipiest) has got to be author Michael Gross’ tome on mega-designer Ralph Lauren. Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren is as dishy and scurrilous as Gross’ other best seller, Model… Gross does what Lauren has spent big bucks and lots of energy preventing others from doing: exposing how Lauren rose to the top as a gentle, modest, secure tycoon while being a narcissistic, insecure, rampaging tyrant… But mostly, the book is about one of the greatest American reinventions of all time.” — Rod Hagwood, The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

“Deliciously dishy and revealing… The unbiased reader comes away with the impression that in Ralph Lauren, there is indeed a vulnerable, imperfect human being behind the perfect image he has created for himself.” — The Dallas Morning News

“Gross paints Lauren as a pathological narcissist who rages behind the relaxed image… A long trail of ex-employees claim this emperor of lifestyle has never actually had a life. But he sure has an interesting life story. A page-turner that offers as much insight into the fashion industry as it does into the Lauren mythology.” — Flare

“A fascinating new biography… With the meticulous attention to detail he displayed in an earlier book, Model: The Ugly Business Of Beautiful Women, Gross charts the rise of the socially awkward Jewish boy from the Bronx named Ralphie Lifshitz into a lifestyle Goliath.” — The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia)

“Surprisingly fascinating.” — Book magazine

“Impressive.” — People

“A deliciously catty expose.” — Sunday Independent

In “Genuine Authentic,” Gross walks the deft line of being sympathetic to Lauren the man without ever exactly flattering him (or, for that matter, cutting him to ribbons)… Gross has managed to write a book that’s likely to speak to business people and fashion people alike. He tells how Lauren evolved from a highly style-conscious kid in the Bronx to a salesman and then designer of neckties, to the head of a $10 billion international business. He lays out the minutiae of business deals gone wrong and explains how Lauren and his associates managed to pull back from the brink of financial disaster more than once. He also bares many of the problems that plagued Lauren’s creative team over the years – namely, Lauren’s tendency to ride his people hard, throwing tantrums when they were unable to read his mind, demanding from them a kind of perfection that could exist only inside his head… ["Genuine Authentic" is] highly readable — and honorable. If Gross occasionally makes Lauren out to be a tyrant, he’s also aware of Lauren’s complexities. Gross shows us a man who’s narcissistic and troubled, but he’s also forthright about the ways in which Lauren is likable, charming and admirable. And he never diminishes Lauren’s contribution to late-20th century fashion. Lauren has crowned himself the ruler of a dream kingdom in which authority and respect, a feeling of being somehow special, can be conferred by dressing in old-money classics — and, best of all, using new money to buy the whole package. “[Lauren's] saga opens a window onto one of the most taboo subjects in our increasingly borderless world – our lust for roots we no longer have and for status as a replacement for the privileges of birth,” Gross writes. “It also reflects our abiding insecurity about class, and the paradox of the extraordinary wealth and cultural power that spring from the common clay of our multi-ethnic, multicultural democracy.” That’s a lot of weight to place on the back of a logo-embroidered knit shirt, but Gross has it right. Gross makes the case that one of the chief criticisms leveled at Lauren – that he’s a “self-loathing” Jew who traded his Eastern European roots for the pretense of Waspy ones – doesn’t hold water. Gross explains that many descendants of Eastern European Jewish immigrants don’t know much about their heritage simply because their forebears didn’t have a high stake in preserving their own bad memories of the places from which they came: They worked hard at never looking back… Gross captures what’s genuinely interesting, and also very touching, about Lauren’s early attempts to build a life of style for himself. If Lauren’s story is proof of anything, it’s that the right mix of insecurity and chutzpah can make you either very rich or very miserable — or, most likely, a combination of both. — Newsday

“[A] dishy portrait… [Gross] worked hard. The book is jammed with detail… Gross, who understands the industry very well, doesn’t gloss over Lauren’s accomplishments, his uncanny instinct for finding a commercial outlet for his own romantic notions… Gross astutely describes Lauren’s knack [and] provides more than enough insight into the snarky and excessive culture of fashion, with Lauren the king of excess.” — The New York Times Book Review

“Grabs readers immediately with the tale of Lauren’s initial co-operation with the book and his subsequent efforts to thwart it. Titillates with stories of adultery and dives into Lauren’s background as a Jewish kid growing up in the Bronx with the last name Lifshitz. Meticulously researched.” — Calgary Herald “What makes the biography one of those books you can’t put down are the shocking revelations about Lauren’s behind-the-scenes personality.” — San Antonio Express-News

“Explodes many of the myths perpetuated by and about Lauren.” — Denver Post

“Ralph Lauren is laid bare.” — The Ottawa Citizen

“A thorough and often fascinating story of a poor boy who grew up to see his every vision realized… Gross seizes upon telling youthful episodes to argue that Lauren’s struggle to create a world-renowned fashion brand was just as much a struggle to create a new identity, one that embraced the glamour of the moneyed upper class and left behind the trappings of the poor kid from the Bronx.” — Detroit Free Press

“The ultimate success story, were it not for a dark side of the designer revealed in Michael Gross’ new unauthorized biography. Shattering Lauren’s gallant, wholesome image, Gross exposes through endless interviews with friends, family and acquaintances past and present, a man deeply insecure and narcissistic, overly controlling, narrow-minded and — at times — frighteningly tyrannical… Rife with scathing anecdotes… Controversial.” — Fashion Wire Daily

“Compelling… Juicy stuff… Pulls no punches.” — Toronto Star

“Entertaining… Michael Gross understands the world of international fashion… Gross portrays a temperamental, narcissistic man riddled with insecurities… Yet Gross is forthright about the man’s undeniable charisma… The classic story of a poor boy who grew up to crown himself king of a world that embraces glamour of the old moneyed classes, but in the end, one is left wondering if it was all worth the price.” — Edmonton Journal

“Gross’ unauthorized biography is causing ripples and roars in the world of Seventh Avenue and beyond… This book has everything.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Biting.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Worth the surf to amazon.com… Gross did extensive research, and the result is engaging. There are lots of power trips and even a little infidelity, but mostly we read about how Ralphie Lifshitz, a descendant of rabbis, became Ralph Lauren, the definer of the American WASP lifestyle.” — The Boston Herald

“Genuine Authentic displays exhaustive research and the keen nose for scandal that made Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women such a contentious best seller… A portrait of the designer as an insecure, egotistical, controlling, and, yes, unfaithful man. Gross is not wholly harsh, crediting Lauren’s marketing savvy and recounting some touching anecdotes along the way.” — Library Journal

“Sizzling… blockbuster.” — Star

About the book:

Everyone knows the name Ralph Lauren. Many people know that he was born Ralphie Lifshitz. But not even Lauren himself knows the extra-ordinary history of his ancestry. And until now, no one really knew how this pint-size nebbish rose from the Jewish ghetto of the Bronx and turned himself from a yarmulke-topped yeshiva boy into the world’s leading purveyor of old-money-WASP style. Genuine Authentic is that story.

Horatio Alger, step aside. Lauren, the descendant of generations of eastern European rabbis, is the embodiment of modern ambition. He stands as a symbol of the awesome rewards of self-invention — and not just because he turned a talent for designing ties into a ten-billion-dollar international business. He also demonstrates how precarious success is, how hard a road life can be even for the driven.

Lauren is considered by many to be a phony and a copycat. Yet even though he made up his name and nearly went bankrupt trying to live up to it, he can’t be dismissed as a mere fake. His products have revolutionized the way almost everything is sold and the way great brands are built. Like Henry Ford and Walt Disney, he’s also a real American authentic. And his business is a stunning American success.

There are at least two Ralph Laurens. To the public he’s a gentle, modest, yet secure and purposeful man. Inside the walls of Polo Ralph Lauren, though, he’s seen by some as a narcissist, an insecure ditherer, and at times a rampaging tyrant.

Michael Gross, author of the bestseller Model, lays bare the truths of this fashion emperor’s rise, and reveals not only the secrets of his stunning success in marketing our shared fantasies but also the darker side that’s hidden behind the shiny patrician image.

Gross uncovers the essence of Lauren’s carefully cultivated mystique: how he has turned his back on his own surprisingly aristocratic heritage to embrace another, more commercially viable, one; how he’s built an image of luxury and wealth on a foundation of almost anonymous commodities, basic items of clothing like polo shirts and khaki pants, sold mostly in low-priced outlets, and seen everywhere from the subway to the world stage. It wasn’t easy. Along the way, Lauren conquered self-doubt and survived business reverses, even several brushes with bankruptcy. Genuine Authentic follows Lauren through an unhappy childhood and confused adolescence — torn between an immigrant culture and his material desires — to fame as a gray-haired thirty-something, and, finally, to the man he is today.

In recent years, after surviving brain tumor surgery, Lauren suffered from a massive midlife crisis, finding solace with a beautiful blond model. He survived that, too, and in the nineties took his company public, making him a billionaire but creating a whole new set of challenges to confront, new horizons to conquer, starting with Wall Street, and then on to the rest of the world.

Phony? Or the real thing? It’s all here. You decide.

HarperCollins; ISBN: 0060199040; $25.95; $39.95(CAN)

Click here to read an excerpt.