By Shea Parton
Photos by Shea Parton for Apolis Activism
Growing up my family made a number of trips to Indonesia, our parents taught us how to bargain in the local markets as we purchased Ralph Lauren pique polos for family Christmas cards. The Polo emblem is common in the Parton household and an inspiring heritage brand that pioneered the Americana niche before it became popular. As I made my way to the Ralph Lauren offices on 650 Madison Avenue on September 18th, I felt like I might need to write a check for all the knock off polos we have bought over the years. Thankfully the topic did not come up while meeting with designer Lee Norwood. Lee is one of many behind the scene designers that keeps the initials ‘RL’ polished across the globe. Lee’s natural humility is traced to growing up in North Carolina delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, bagging groceries, working on a farm, laying concrete, and painting houses. His southern upbringing and perspective on integrity came from a creative mother and an ordained father, principles Lee has shared with his wife, Betsy, and two daughters, Hattie (4), Jose (1). Lee carried these genuine values into his career and made his way up the ladder at RL from sales to design and learned that the Polo culture is about "Putting your life experiences into your work." Lee’s touch at RL is associated with functionality, durability, and timelessness. In Lee’s words, “I love the tradition of men's clothing, and how we pay more attention to fit and taste than to modernity or fashion. I like how in the past collections were created out of necessity, ... , people designed for a particular function.”
After hearing Lee's name for years it is a privilege to call him a friend that has reminded us of the importance of taking pride in who you are, where you’re from, and what you stand for.