LONDON – It has been a British trifecta year for Ralph Lauren, with the final event coming Monday night at the Fashion Awards, when the designer will accept the outstanding achievement in fashion prize, following in the steps of Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Terry and Tricia Jones and Manolo Blahnik.
The designer, who plans to wear — what else? — denim with his tuxedo jacket tonight, admitted he’s a little nervous — and said there’s no formal speech planned. “I haven’t been practicing. What I’m hoping is that I am good. I can be natural and, sometimes it works, so hopefully I’ll just say the right thing.”
Naturally, he has some jitters ahead of the gala, which 4,000 guests are set to attend. “I was talking to someone else about tonight, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t really want to be Ralph Lauren right now. Do I have to be?’ The person I was talking to was free — they can have an easy night. And I have that responsibility.”
It will be Lauren’s first time at Royal Albert Hall. He said during an interview at Claridge’s on Monday afternoon that he’s excited about the honor, which comes on the eve of his company’s 50th anniversary. “It’s a good time, and how could I not enjoy the sense that I’m being recognized? What more could you want in your career?”
There’s always been a mutual passion flowing between Lauren and England, and it’s flourished over the decades. “I’m a long-term person. You know, I’ve been married 52 years in December. So, that’s pretty long-term, if you want to know what long-term is. England has inspired me in many ways.
“It’s about longevity, about honor, about things that I admire. Everything about England — the horses, the homes, the flowers, the little stone houses, has been an inspiration since I was a kid. Even the Morgan sports car that I had when I was 20 years old — with a British racing green stripe.”
Lauren said he finds London, where he spent the weekend, “more exciting than I’ve ever seen it. The energy, the lights, the people walking along the streets — it’s very exciting. Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas time, but it feels really good, and fresh and energetic.”
He said he visited the new Design Museum in Kensington, which opened last month, and ate at Chiltern Firehouse and Fischer’s, the Viennese cafe and restaurant in Marylebone.
Even without the award, it’s been a busy year in Britain for Lauren, who in September opened London’s first Polo Ralph Lauren, 17,561 square feet of prime space on Regent Street, and the world’s first Create Your Own customization shop, which allows customers to put their stamp — flags, bears, dogs, crests and monograms — on polo and oxford shirts.
Earlier in the year, Lauren unveiled a breast cancer research center that bears his name at The Royal Marsden Hospital in London’s Chelsea. He cut the ribbon alongside his wife, Ricky, and Prince William in May.
His multimillion-pound donation, revealed two years ago, went into the creation of a 6,383-square-foot hospital floor where researchers and clinicians focus on curing a variety of breast cancers using the latest equipment and resources.
If it was a big year for all things British, next year promises to be even busier with the brand’s 50th anniversary — although Lauren said he’s taking that one step at a time and trying not to obsess about the milestone.
“It makes me nervous when I look at it that way. I don’t want too much at once, you know. I like it when it’s quieter, and I like life going on the way it should be, and I don’t want to push it. I think you get disappointed if you try to push it, and you try too hard. So, it’s a question of what feels like me. It might be nothing, you know. Just the fact that we can be recognized now is a wonderful thing. What more could we want?”
Accolades or not, Lauren said he’s grateful for how life turned out. “I’m glad to have my kids and my family and to live a normal life. Things are going well, and everyone is well. These sound like things that your grandmother says to you — but they’re important.”