The world's wealthiest fashion designer, Ralph Lauren has made billions marketing a mythical lifestyle of polo matches and country clubs to the masses.

The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Ralph Lifshitz was born and raised in the Bronx. At 17, he and his brother decided to change their last name to "Lauren" and a year later Ralph headed off to City College, much to the disappointment of his mother who hoped he'd become a rabbi.

Lauren's design ambitions first manifested themselves when he worked as a tie salesman in the mid-1960s and launched Polo Fashions Inc. in 1968. Within a few years he'd established a thriving business and by the 1980s, he emerged as one of the country's most prominent designers. Although the brand suffered through a rough stretch in the early 1990s as the competition heated up, Lauren endured thanks to his many licenses and the dozens of low-cost lines sold at outlets.

Possibly the fashion industry's greatest self-inventor Lauren's pivotal realization was that he wasn't actually selling clothing. He was selling a lifestyle, and the enticing illusion of sophistication, class and taste. Much to his annoyance, his clothes have never been held in high esteem by fashion snobs. A notorious micromanager, completely dedicated to his WASPY illusion, Lauren has dodged racist controversies and feuds with fellow designers to be worth billions. [Image via Getty]