Iconic American fashion designer and an overall polymath, Ralph Lauren will be the first American designer to be honoured as Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE). The honour, the first for an American designer, puts Lauren in the same league as luminaries such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Hollywood royalty Angelina Jolie and Steven Speilberg, and former US presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
But it’s no surprise that Lauren has been chosen. For past five decades, Lauren’s designs have set a definitive tone for American style. Through his classics such as cabled cashmere sweaters, striped rugby shirts, crest Oxford button downs and military jackets Lauren, has left an indelible mark on fashion.
Past September he celebrated his glorious 5 decades in fashion with retrospective show held at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park, New York and was attended by the likes of Blake Lively, Jessica Chastain, supermodel Iman along with other American fashion titans such as from Vera Wang, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan
Besides dressing Hollywood’s best Lauren has also been a popular choice among US first ladies such as Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan.
Here’s what you may not know about him.
1. His real name is Ralph Rueben Lifschitz. His parents Frank Lifschitz (a house painter) and Fraydl Kotlar were Jewish immigrants from Poland. The youngest of four siblings, he was 16, when his brother Jerry changed their last name from Lifschitz to Lauren.
2. He served in the US army from 1962–1964.
3. He sold ties out of a drawer, which was at the Empire State Building. This was 1967, and he worked with tie manufacturer Beau Brummell at the time.
4.He launched Ralph Lauren Corporation in 1967. By 1969 New York’s Bloomingdales was selling his men’s line exclusively. He eventually moved on to create sharp suits for Hollywood royalty. In 1974, he did the costumes for ‘The Great Gatsby’, dressing Robert Redford. Ruth Morley, costume designer for ‘Annie Hall’ roped in Lauren to make Diane Keaton’s trend-setting tailored pieces.
5. The iconic Polo Bear motif has been a part of Ralph Lauren’s designs since 1991; the signature Polo bear sweater made its runway debut in 1991. It was inspired by an actual Steiff teddy bear, which was given to Lauren on his birthday by his team.
6. There are almost 30 brands under the Ralph Lauren umbrella, including Polo, RLX Golf, Denim & Supply, RRL, and Ralph Lauren Purple Label. Besides this Ralph Lauren also acquired Canadian retailer Club Monaco in 1999.
7. Ralph Lauren’s expertise goes beyond fashion. He is also the owner of four restaurants; Polo Bar (New York); Ralph’s (Paris); RL (Chicago) and Ralph’s Coffee Bar (London).
8. He is passionate about cars. From a 1930 Mercedes Benz SSK ‘Count Trossi’ to a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Volante Drop Head Coupe to a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB N.A.R.T. Spyder, his garage holds all. His Fall 2017 was held in Bedford, New York, where his vintage cars are parked.
9. He is the only designer who has bagged Council of Fashion Designers of America’s top four in his career – the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, the Menswear Designer of the Year Award and the Retailer of the Year Award.
10. Tory Burch, Vera Wang and Thom Browne have honed their skills under him.