The Ralph Lauren Brand Message Needs a New Set of Smart Sensuality Values

Updated June 26, 2010. We don’t know if the latest Ralph Lauren controversy is a big deal or a baby one. To us, it’s no Photoshop disaster because Tao Okamoto is very thin model as revealed in her photos , including a new one of her topless in a fashion shoot.

This is the vision of womanhood that Ralph Lauren celebrates. With Gwyneth Paltrow announcing that at age 37, she has osteoporosis, we say that women consumers must stop the madness. The Ralph Lauren team could care less about women’s health, except for their work raising money for breast cancer. 

Nordstrom should also become part of this conversation, because they’re not a global brand, appealing to Asian women who have been dieting themselves down to nothingness. This submissive attitude is part of their Japanese mindset, a condition that Ralph Lauren is marketing into, but one that doesn’t involve Nordstrom. 

Ralph Lauren now prefers women with such low body weight, they are candidates for anorexia. We hoped that last fall’s big debate on healthy bodies might dissuade Ralph Lauren from pursuing a course of presenting beauty images of women of such low body weight that they are candidates for infertility or osteoporosis. 

Clearly, women have failed in this dialogue. Therefore, we seriously recommend that women vote with their wallets. This is the foundation of American capitalism and a set of values held close to Ralph Lauren’s heart. 

All week our article on Ralph Lauren’s Ubah Hassan has been our #2 read. As business people, we don’t wish PR brand blowups on anyone but it seems that America’s greatest brand is handing women an aspirational image that’s bad for our health.

In an act of self-preservation, we rebel. When pushed we respond ferociously. We ask Ralph Lauren just what kind of game he’s playing with women’s lives and fertility?

It is not our fantasy of beauty to become so thin that we our bones break and menses cease. Yes, America has a serious obesity problem and we’re trying to help educate women of the need to have a healthy body weight. This image of womanhood is NOT the answer to women’s obesity problems.

Written Oct. 17, 2009

Advertising is meant to be aspirational. The entire premise of American advertising and branding strategies assumes we aspire to be these women, and that men who desire us also embrace this marketing message.

When a breathing, healthy woman with a BMI of 20-25 looks in the mirror, she will see a failure to live up to the Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld image.

Karl Lagerfeld, who supports the thinnest possible women, and the folks at Ralph Lauren, including Ralph Lauren himself, believe that at least North American, South American and European women aspire to be so thin, that they will eventually suffer from major health problems including:

-bone loss and debilitating fractures
-loss of libido
-cessation of menses
-inability to conceive children


It is a well known fact that already-thin Asian women are dieting even more rigorously to look like the women in these Ralph Lauren images. It is also a well known fact that Asian women are less aggressive and more pliable women, which is why they are desireable to many men globally as partners, lovers and wives.

Patriarchal values are alive and well around the world. You are looking at them loud and clear in the Ralph Lauren ad campaign.

The luxury market is moving Eastward, as the European and American economies tank, and that includes Ralph Lauren.

As a branding and marketing expert, a 10 year veteran of Victoria’s Secret, lastly as the Fashion Director; as a 10-year-consultant to some of America’s largest brands and retailers, I would resign my consultancy over this advertising treatment of women and the messages Ralph Lauren is sending to all of us.

The Ralph Lauren brand believes the classic American message: you can never be too rich or too thin.

At whatever cost to one’s health, the global economy, the planet and all other people, Ralph Lauren believes this is the ultimate American dream and the ultimate set of upper-class Modern values that we all secretly desire.  

The Ralph Lauren folks are wrong. Increasing numbers of people are rejecting this Modern vision of a great brand, because they know the consequences for people everywhere and Mother Earth. The robber barons of Wall Street vision of American brand greatness is over.

Yes, people continue to consume high quality products and services. But this brand imagery is deadly wrong.

Smart Sensuality women and Cultural Creatives people like Shakira, Bill and Melinda Gates, Queen Rania, Muhammad Yunus, Warren Buffett and all the Buffett children — even Madonna — don’t believe that the good life consists of being the richest or the thinnest woman on the planet.

Frankly, this ad campaign is dated and represents everything that is wrong with America. We do not aspire to be these people any more — not even intelligent rich people want a public image like this one. Anne