LONDON — Having drawn inspiration from Britain for more than 50 years and thrown his money and influence behind the nation’s beloved institutions, including Wimbledon and The Royal Marsden Hospital, Ralph Lauren just got a big thank you, from Prince Charles.
On Wednesday, Lauren was given an honorary KBE, or Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for services to fashion during a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Because he’s an American citizen, the title is an honorary one and Lauren won’t be able to use “Sir” ahead of his name — unless he becomes a British citizen. He will, though, be able to put a KBE at the end of his signature.
Other honorary American KBEs include Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Bob Hope, Alan Greenspan, Ted Kennedy and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Lauren is the first American fashion designer to receive the accolade.
Plans to award Lauren with a KBE were revealed by the British government last November. At that time, Antony Phillipson, British Consul General to New York and Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America, said the award recognizes that “in fashion, business and philanthropy, Mr. Lauren has played a key role in forging transatlantic cultural and economic connections. As creator and visionary of the Ralph Lauren brand worldwide, Mr. Lauren has been a vanguard for the global fashion industry and American style for nearly half a century. In addition, monumental philanthropic efforts, especially in the realm of public health, cancer research and treatment in both the U.S. and the U.K., have led to benefits felt by citizens around the world.”
This isn’t the first time the Brits — or the royal family — have feted Lauren: In 2016, the British Fashion Council honored the designer with its Outstanding Achievement award at the Fashion Awards in London.
The BFC recognized Lauren for his creative vision as well as his business acumen in a career that has spanned more than 50 years.
Earlier in 2016, Ralph Lauren unveiled a breast cancer research center that bears his name at The Royal Marsden Hospital, side-by-side with wife Ricky and Prince William.
He donated millions of pounds to create the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research, a streamlined, sunlit hospital floor spanning 6,383 square feet where researchers and clinicians are focused on curing a variety of breast cancers using the latest equipment and resources.
Prince William, who has been president of The Royal Marsden since 2007 — a role once held by his late mother, Princess Diana — officially opened the center.
To mark his commitment to The Royal Marsden, Lauren was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Prince William, at Windsor Castle. Lauren attended the gala dinner with his wife Ricky and children David, Dylan and Andrew.
Dinner guests on the night included Cate Blanchett, Emma Watson, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sheherazade Goldsmith and Kate Moss.
Ralph Lauren Corp. has committed further support to The Royal Marsden, with a pledge toward the appeal to fund the building of a new state-of-the-art facility, the Oak Cancer Centre at The Royal Marsden’s outpost in Sutton, England.
The Oak Cancer Centre will bring together more than 300 researchers alongside 140,000 expected patients each year, with the aim of speeding up the translation of cutting-edge research into treatment and care.
Next year will mark the 15th year that Lauren has been supplying uniforms for the Wimbledon Championship’s on-court officials, as well as its ball boys and ball girls.
The U.K. honors system recognizes achievement and service to the nation and includes non-British nationals who receive honorary awards for their important contribution to British interests. The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917.
It isn’t only the Brits who admire Lauren, however. The French awarded the American designer with a Legion of Honor in 2010, and upgraded it last year to Officer of the Legion of Honor from Knight of the Legion of Honor.