A new HBO documentary peeks behind RalphLauren's meticulously crafted world to reveal the emotion within.
A new HBO documentary peeks behind the legendary designer’s meticulously crafted world to reveal the emotion within.
“I still like Batman,” Lauren tells me in his soft Bronx rumble. “I dream about going through Gotham City.”
and recent films on Jane Fonda and Steven Spielberg,
“It’s not easy having someone write about you, or seeing a film about you,” Lauren admits. He and I are seated on a long white couch in the cozy living room of the Montauk, Long Island, beach house he shares with his wife of 55 years, Ricky. The place is not the sort of ego monument common to other enclaves in the East End. Low to the ground, hidden among scrubby shoreline trees, this wooden, 1940s-built home is the kind of rustic retreat that artists built when they wanted to creatively recharge.
It’s an uncharacteristic surrender for a man who has famously crafted every detail of his professional and personal image. Lauren gave the cameras rare behind-the-scenes access to his life, from Montauk to his New York office to the family’s sprawling ranch in Colorado.
“That was the biggest moment because I walked out of the store,” Lauren tells me. “I said to myself, ‘What did I do?’ I didn’t have a business. I was trying to build one. But I needed my own brand.”
“Genius—it was genius!” Lauren says, chuckling. (He recoils at fashion’s habit of overwrought superlatives.) “I knew what I was doing because I loved what I did,” he says. “I wasn’t catering to some lady somewhere, or some guy. I was catering to myself.”
drills down to the roots of Lauren’s inspirations: classic movies, vintage cars, style vanguards like Frank Sinatra.
“They’re just nice to be around,” designer Thom Browne says of the Laurens. “They’re a very normal family—which is an amazing thing to say for a family that really could have not been so normal.”
That sort of anxiety doesn’t compare to an episode that is not covered in the documentary: the moment in 1987 when, after hearing a persistent ringing in his ears, Lauren was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At the time, he had three young children at home and was deep in preparations for a show. “Here I was, doing all the things I love, and someone tells me, ‘You’ve got a brain tumor,’ ” he says. He thought, Am I watching a movie now? “I couldn’t believe it.”
Lauren would bounce back and lead his company fearlessly toward the 21st century and beyond, and the documentary chronicles the expansion of his vision to new faces like the African American model Tyson Beckford, who, like Ralph, was from the Bronx, and whose inclusion defied white, patrician clichés around preppy Wall Street style. “Here I am in a Ralph Lauren ad, which was unheard-of in the black community,” Beckford says. “It changed my life.”
“It’s because I have something to say,” Lauren tells me. “When I feel I have nothing to say, and I can’t do it well, then I have to go. That’s what challenges me.”Read more: Vogue Magazine
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