Ralph Lauren Polo Bear Designer Explains the Origins of the Emblem

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Since it first appeared in the early 1990s, Ralph Lauren‘s Polo Bear motif has become one of the American label’s most popular emblems. The designer of the logo, Richard “Dick” Tahsin recently sat down with Grailed‘s Dry Clean Only to discuss its origins and some of the other iconic Ralph pieces he worked on during his time with the label.

Discussing how the design came to be, Tahsin reveals that it was an adaptation of an earlier, less-popular design. “I don’t know who made the original Polo Bear art that looked like a racoon … there’s actually some real early apparel pieces that have the first version of the bear on it that did not go over too well.” Tahsin also adds that he was chosen to lead the project due to his knowledge of vintage toys, and that he drew all the original Bear artwork between 1991 and 1996. “They’ve always used the same Polo Bear head which is what I created,” he explains, “I would draw all the bodies on the Bear with the correct outfits and such when the designers would come to me.”

On his early days at Ralph Lauren:

When I started in 1990 there was definitely a semi-conscious effort to skew a lot of the menswear prints to be much more graphic, colorful and illustrative. So the Roulette Wheel, the Riviera, The Clocks shirt, was my art. I did a lot of those “graphic posters put on a shirt”-type pieces. When working on those prints, a lot of the direction came filtered down from my director, Ruth Perretti. She really came in and really pushed for that whole look that is now deemed as the golden age of Ralph Lauren.

On the iconic Ski 92 jacket:

lot of the inspiration came from the ’30s and ’40s regarding prints and things. When we were working on them we had no idea that people would still be clamoring for these things. I think the urban community really took to it and built it up in the popular mainstream culture. I don’t think that was ever an overt attempt by the company thinking, “Oh, the hip hop culture is going to jump on this and turn it into something…” I mean no. We had no idea.

Take the Ski 92 Jacket: That was something we literally just thought of putting on the back of the coat. There was no conscious thought further down the pike other than to make something that would sell that day in the store.

On the design inspirations:

There is an extensive design library that has books on all different prints from all different eras. From the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. A lot of the design managers would go around to vintage collectable shows throughout the country and get the most obscure things. It might be a vintage button from the ’30s or the ’40s and bring it back to Ralph Lauren.

You can read some more key quotes from the interview below, and head over to the Dry Clean Only site to read the full interview with Tahsin.

In other fashion news, check out our latest editorial with CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC.

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