Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren can add a new notch to his leather belt: Honorary Knighthood.

The 79-year-old designer, who is celebrating 50 years in business, has been made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He may be called Ralph Lauren KBE, if he wishes.

The honorary knighthood insignia will be presented to the designer by a representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony next year.

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.”

Lauren is the first American fashion designer to be recognized with an honorary knighthood. Other notable American recipients of an honorary U.K. knighthood or damehood include former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, former New York City Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, Angelina Jolie, Steven Spielberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Angela Ahrendts.

The U.K. honors system recognizes exceptional achievement and service to the nation, and includes non-British nationals who receive honorary awards for their important contribution to British interests.

Lauren has had quite the anniversary year. In September, he realized his childhood dream by throwing out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game.

“I’ve been everywhere and I’ve spoken in front of presidents. But this is probably the most exciting moment ever for me,” Ralph Lauren said in the Yankees dugout before the game as he prepared for his big moment.

Throughout his career, Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of the Ralph Lauren Corp., has been recognized with many honors and awards. He received the Key to the City of New York from Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his outstanding civic contributions, and the French Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in recognition of his contributions as a designer, business leader and philanthropist. He has also been awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, recognizing his lifetime contributions as a great American and his leadership role in the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has awarded Lauren many high honors including Womenswear and Menswear Designer of the Year, Retailer of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received the CDFA’s first American Fashion Award, WWD’s first John B. Fairchild Honor, and the British Fashion Award recognizing Ralph Lauren’s legendary and creative vision.

Among his philanthropic achievements, Ralph Lauren Corp. established the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Ralph Lauren Corp. in partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, established  the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care in Harlem, N.Y. Most recently, the Ralph Lauren Corp. opened The Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.