“I can’t believe I’m living this life,” Ralph Lauren exclaimed at his 40th anniversary gala during New York Fashion Week in September.
He had every reason in the world to feel elated. This has been a banner year for the designer, crowned by the much-lauded spring 2008 runway show and black-tie dinner at Central Park’s Conservatory Garden.
Among the many memorable moments of 2007, in mid-May, Lauren and his usual close-knit entourage, including wife Ricky, son David and daughter Dylan, journeyed to Russia to open two stores in Moscow and bring the Ralph Lauren lifestyle there for the first time. It was also a chance to explore his family’s heritage — after all, Lauren is the son of Russian immigrants.
“I didn’t know what Russia would be like,” he told WWD at the time. “I didn’t know what the lighting would be like. I didn’t know what the tone of Russia was. I heard a lot of different things. Actually, I find it very exciting and energetic. You can really feel the buzz.”
The designer brought some of that buzz home with him. Just three weeks later, Lauren was back in the spotlight at the New York Public Library, where he was honored with the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s first American Legend Award. The honor came with a lengthy video montage celebrating the Ralph Lauren lifestyle. The award was presented to him by Oprah Winfrey, who wore a dress of the designer’s that evoked pink butter frosting. And like icing on the cake, Lauren also won that night’s Menswear Designer of the Year award. “It was quite a night,” he recalled in mid-June at a Fashion Targets Breast Cancer luncheon. “Legend — I always love that. I could change my last name to it.”
After a summer break, Lauren’s preparations for Polo’s 40th anniversary kicked into high gear — no small task. For one thing, the designer has been seemingly omnipresent on newsstands, appearing on the covers of Fortune, Town & Country, Men’s Vogue, Architectural Digest, GQ Russia and Japan’s GQ, Esquire, Engine and Free & Easy magazines. In addition to those cover stories, there were lengthy profiles in publications like Vanity Fair, which featured an appreciation piece by New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger drawing parallels to Walt Disney; Elle magazine, and The New York Times’ T magazine.
This story first appeared in the October 15, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
For the spring show and gala, Polo erected a tent at the Conservatory Garden at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. It featured an atypically tongue-in-cheek soundtrack with the song “Boring” by The Pierces, deeming everything from “Sexy boy/ Girl on girl/ménage à trois” to “Marijuana/Cocaine/Heroin” and “Galliano/Donatella/Dolce & Gabbana” as “Boring.” The show, of course, was anything but, with elegant white ruffled dresses, garden party gowns, jockey prints for some bias-cut dresses, jackets and new handbags and embellished jodhpurs. After a standing ovation, the show’s backdrop opened to reveal magical outdoors environs, where dinner was being served among 10 400-pound urns of pink hydrangeas, 11 chandeliers and tablescapes in full Ralph splendor.
Enjoying the scenery were Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, Charlie Rose, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera.
“It’s a thank you to just do the best I can in my show, to feel good,” Lauren said a few days before the event. “Having a party in Central Park is sort of saying thank you, and that this is a beautiful city and I started in New York, and Central Park is New York.”
According to Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks at the festivities, so is the Bronx-born designer: “If you called central casting and said, ‘Find me a great New Yorker,’ they would send Ralph Lauren.'”