Containing a 40-year career to a book is not for the faint-hearted, but apparently Ralph Lauren attacked the project with gusto.
So much so that, in the thick of the research needed for the new “Ralph Lauren” book, the designer powwowed with Rizzoli’s vice president publisher Charles Miers practically every other day.
“He really authored the book from start to finish and in doing so revisited his life and his career in tremendous depth. He then had to simplify it in a way that looked valuable,” Miers said.
Lauren must have edited thousands of photos, “really looking closely for what he wanted to say. He had very consistent principles. It was very interesting for me as an outsider to see how consistent and strong those principles were and how well they could be applied to sections in the book,” said Miers
The designer’s more rabid shoppers will find plenty of his creations they did or didn’t buy. There are other flashbacks to be seen, including the Newsweek cover of Robert Redford in a three-piece Ralph Lauren suit as he appeared in “The Great Gatsby” movie and a 1977 “Annie Hall” movie poster. Of course, there are also photos of Lauren over the years — at ease in an old beat-up cowboy hat out West or wearing a sarong in Jamaica.
The designer’s willingness to open up about his lifestyle and various homes relates to his work and how they have guided him very clearly, Miers said. “A lot of monographs we do are just [photographic] portfolios of what people do,” Miers said.
Not so with Lauren. Miers said of their frequent meetings, “He told me it was the best part of his day.”
Lauren also dressed for the occasions, turning up looking like a Wall Street power broker one time and then a rancher the next, Miers said.
“In every case, it was true glamour. He gave you the feeling that you could live that personality for the day through his clothes,” Miers said. “This whole book was like looking in his closet.”
Mary Randolph Carter pitched in as editor and creative director and Buffy Birrittella, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.’s senior vice president of women’s design, was also heavily involved, Miers said.
This story first appeared in the October 15, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The book is dedicated to Ricky, the designer’s wife of 42 years. Lauren touches upon the American dream in the text: “I have always been inspired by the dream of America — families in the country, weathered trucks and farmhouses; sailing off the coast of Maine; following dirt roads in an old wood-paneled station wagon; a convertible filled with young college kids sporting crew cuts and sweatshirts and frayed blue sneakers.”
Miers said of Lauren, “He really is the great American fashion designer. If he could have dreamed up a career and a book 40 years ago, this would be the career and the book. So few of us actually get to live our dreams. He is and his dream is so consistent.”