Dear Mr. Lauren,
I’m 99% sure you have no clue who I am. We met once, at a dinner two years ago in London, where I, like a starstruck teenager, could only mutter, “I absolutely love everything you’ve ever made. Thank you.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that meeting and what I could have said, if I had been just been brave enough. And it’s led me to this letter, where I can say everything I wish I could have, in a way that, I hope, not only honours my love for the brand you’ve created but also asks for a pretty big favour for the future of Ralph Lauren.
Mr. Lauren, allow me to give you a quick background of my own history with your brand. I grew in up in the Carolinas, raised in a loving all American family, with three brothers, two golden retrievers, a wonderful supportive father, and a mother who not only showed me love, friendship and kindness every day of my life, she also introduced me to you, well, your brand. My mother was a Ralph Lauren devotee. My earliest memories involve snuggling into my mother’s chunky wool Ralph Lauren cardigan sweaters that smelled of her scent, Ralph Lauren Safari.
Over the years, I have slowly acquired my mom’s vintage Ralph Lauren pieces, while also building my own modern day collection of Ralph Lauren. At present, my closet is roughly 75% you (Here’s the proof)! Your chunky cardigans, waffle knit maxi dresses, wool coats and vintage-style maxi skirts are some of my most prized possessions. But, Mr. Lauren, my collection of Ralph Lauren has been greatly limited, due to my size.
You see, I am a size 18UK (16US) and have been for the majority of my adult years. While you carry only up to a size 14US in your mainline collections, I have, at every possible opportunity, squeezed into anything that stretches to fit my figure. I’ve bought and altered things to fit when they were too tight. I’ve found my own way around being able to wear a great many of your pieces every season that exist under the Ralph Lauren or Polo Ralph Lauren brand. I have done whatever it has taken to be able to wear your designs because I adore them. Your catwalks have always left me with a lump in my throat. But, they have also left me wishing, with every ounce of hope I possess, that one day you would decide to lead the charge on extended sizes and being more inclusive for all American women that do not currently wear a size 14 or under.
Mr. Lauren, you are THE American brand and have often led the charge on much needed changes in the fashion industry. You have stepped up to embrace women of all races, supported the LGBTQ+ community, given a voice to those with cancer, given time and money to those less fortunate and contributed time and again to bringing about change in our world over the past 50+years. Your service to people everywhere is unparalleled, and, in my opinion, not spoken about nearly enough. You have started ripples in fashion that have led to great tidal waves across the industry. If I may be so bold, I’m asking you to please do it again.
Did you know that, at present, 66% of American women are plus size?
At the moment, you carry just over 100 items on your website for sizes 14-22US. These are all from the collection Lauren by Ralph Lauren. The majority of these items are shirts and the remainder are “safe classics.” To be honest, and I mean this with all respect, sir, this has never been an inspiring collection of pieces for women who are fans of your brand. This has, for years, been a safe check mark in servicing a plus size community. I understand that up until a few years ago, this was unchartered territory. How often, pre-2000, did we see a plus size woman in fashion, on a runway or in a magazine editorial? It was unheard of. In 2021, we have supermodels like Ashley Graham, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine, Marquita Pring, Alessandra Garcia-Lorido and many more gracing the covers of numerous magazines and fronting endless campaigns. We’ve seen dozens of designer brands extend their sizes over the past 12 months and promise to continue to work hard to do so more in the future. It is truly a whole new world and one in which size no longer dictates style.
Mr. Lauren, I would have hoped that as the all-American brand, you would have been one of the first people to embrace extended sizes. I cannot pretend to know any reason why you wouldn’t have. Maybe you have been told by some advisors that the marketplace isn’t there? Maybe you’ve been told that plus size women don’t have the money to spend on Ralph Lauren or don’t want it? Truly, I cannot even start to imagine how many advisors you have in this department and I can only imagine your reasons for not pursuing an extension of your sizes for runway collection or Polo Ralph Lauren. But, I’m going to go out on a limb here, be bold and suggest it’s time.
As a brand, Ralph Lauren has always been hugely supportive of me as an influencer. You and your London team have always asked me to events, allowed me to host events for you and launch new concepts in store. You’ve given me the chance to be a spokesperson for your brand on my own channels, you’ve supported any ideas I’ve had on sharing creative concepts of my own with the world. I can’t thank you enough for what has been a beautiful relationship with your teams over the years, which is of course why I am treading carefully here, as I would never want to put that relationship in danger.
Over the past ten years that we have worked together, I have defended, without a moment’s pause, my love for Ralph Lauren the brand. Recently, however, it has been a little harder to blindly defend a brand that does not show an interest in continuing to evolve with a growing population. Literally. How can it be ignored that over half the population in America can’t wear the most iconic brand in our country? I have been met with great criticism as I continue to share my love for you daily, and I am the first to hold my hands up and say, “I’m sorry guys. I don’t know what’s taking them so long.”
Here’s what I’d like to think is happening. I’d like to think that in true Ralph Lauren style, nothing is done in half measures. Perhaps your team are already hard at work at developing extended sizes that will roll out soon. If you are not, I’d like to offer up this incentive to do so. I’m hoping that women the world over will support me here in this endeavour to show you that we care, we’re here, we have open wallets and we want to be able to freely shop your collections, not just pray something will fit.
Mr. Lauren, you are the reason I fell in love with this industry and I know I am not alone. What you create is universally appealing. It is also flattering for all women, no matter their age, race or style set. Please consider that it can also be universally flattering for women no matter their size. My dream is for all women to be able to feel the confidence and beauty that comes with wearing a Ralph Lauren garment. Because truly, sir, there is no other feeling in this world like wearing a piece of Ralph Lauren. Nothing else even comes close
Emily Jane Johnston
If you support this letter, please leave a comment below. I would love for Ralph Lauren and his team to see his many supporters speak out for this dream to become a reality! I have heard all too often that designer brands are told, “plus size women don’t want to shop designer and they won’t spend if we extend our sizes.” Let’s stop that lie right here and right now. Comment below and show your support! Forward to friends and have them comment. And no, I don’t want negative comments. Let’s be encouraging and show we want change and open mindedness for what the future can hold…
Hey, all we can do is ask, right?