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Polo Bear tee

Source: Polo / Ralph Lauren

The 1990’s are considered to be the golden era of Polo Ralph Lauren and for good reason. The former art director explains how some of their most cherished looks came to be.

From 1990 to 1996 Richard “Dick” Tahsin was in charge of RL’s menswear artwork department. During his tenure the Cleveland, Ohio native would go on to conceptualize some the brand’s most sought after logos and pieces including their signature Polo Bear.

Grailed recently caught up with Tahsin to discuss his start at the American fashion house, how his sketches would fuel the Lo Head / Lo Life subculture and more.

How he got his start at Ralph Lauren:

I began freelancing for [Ralph Lauren] right after I graduated. I was actually freelancing in the women’s division. I was there for the summer and in the early fall of ’85, then took another position with another menswear company, Alfred Sung. After I left that company I was hired by Ralph in 1990 in the art department for menswear.

The company switching to bolder graphics for their menswear line:

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. The P-Wing era and all of that.

How the Polo Bear design came to be:

I don’t know who made the original Polo Bear art that looked like a raccoon but that was sort of the consensus. It just looked like a raccoon. 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. I took a crack at it and came up with what has, since then, been sort of the iconic representation of the Polo Bear throughout the 1990’s. I created and drew all the original Bear art from 1991 up to 1996, when I left the company. They’ve always used the same Polo Bear head which is what I created. I would draw all the bodies on the Bear with the correct outfits and such when the designers would come to me.

On working with Ralph Lauren:

I will say that Ralph was always a very gentle and kind man as an employer and boss. I dealt with him closely when I was working on the Ralph Lauren Barbie doll. That was when I really got to work really with Ralph. He would really lend his insight and his feedback regarding the designs I came up with and presented to him. He’d say, Instead of Houndstooth pants, let’s do a solid gray flannel pant.

This interview is a must read for any Ralph Lauren lover. You can find the entire Q&A here.

Via Hype Beast

Photo: Ralph Lauren