Dressing the American Dream: On 50 years of Ralph Lauren

The American Dream is the ideal by which hard work and an enduringly positive outlook on life gets you anywhere. If the ebullient, star-studded crowd that came to Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ralph Lauren is anything to go by, the American Dream lifestyle is certainly a reality for the Polo family.   

In a tale parallel to Willy Loman, albeit with a much happier ending, Ralph Lauren began his illustrious career by selling ties at Bloomingdales as Ralph Lifshitz and this is the essence of Ralph Lauren – its American homeland – remaining at the heart of the brand today. Polo shirts, Breton collars, and white-washed denim on fall afternoons are as American as apple pie, and as Anne Hathaway swiftly put it, Ralph Lauren is “American glamour itself.” From guest starring in Friends to garnering a net worth of $6.8 billion (as of 14 October 2018), the man, the myth and the legendary fashion house have come to encapsulate an unparalleled image of America herself, from the Wimbledon outfitter to the evening polo shirt.

The audience that came to the 50th anniversary New York Fashion Week (NYFW) show was dizzyingly spectacular – the collection. From Hillary Clinton in baby blue silk to Jessica Chastain in La La Land yellow, everybody who is anybody in America today was out in force to celebrate what is America itself. Above the red, white and blue of the quilted runway rang a very poignant subliminal message: from Kanye West to Tommy Hilfiger, it was clear that the model of the self-made American has not changed; for an undying thirst for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are still as powerful as they were four hundred years ago.

Of course, we can’t forget about the clothes themselves. They were stand-alone pieces tailored to perfection. Denim, iconic since James Dean, was prolific, whilst wide brim cowboy hats met soft-tone brown leather belts were paired with a colourful midi-patchwork skirt, giving the show a Southern-Belle meets Western outlaw aesthetic. Similarly, the beauty of the ready-to-wear collection saw a bespoke sequinned flapper dress paired with a black beanie and grey knit cardigan (embellished with a diamante lizard broach), embracing the leisure style of today and the lavish glamour of soirees past. Neutral caramel tones met grey corduroy, which met applause from Carolina Herrera which met a flurry of couture strapless finale gowns, led by none other than the all-blonde American girl Gigi Hadid.

The magic that whispered through the velvet banquette seating wasn’t purely from the clothes but from their presentation. To see the Western suede jackets and lumberjack shirts evolve into glittering evening dresses mirrored how Ralph Lauren has transformed his family’s own classic American style into a cultural behemoth. It transcends decades and oceans to bring cabled cashmere sweaters to every man, woman, and child. From Annie Hall to Redford’s Great Gatsby, American glamour does not shy away from being anything other than unapologetically American – or really, unapologetically, and brilliantly, Ralph Lauren.

Even the rain couldn’t stop the open-air show from being a raging success and with the introduction of new growth plans recently introduced at the by Ralph at the New York stock exchange, Generation Z and the spending power it holds will soon be kitted out in Ralph Lauren casual ski wear as well. As Oprah Winfrey said, “The show is a bonus because the real reason we’re all here is not because of the show, but because of you Ralph. We’re here to celebrate you releasing our dreams and creating a sense of value that brings wholesomeness to glamour.”

At 79 years old, the first-ever recipient of the CDFA Members Salute award this year, he shows no sign of stopping. Before long we’ll be celebrating the 60th anniversary at Central Park once again in the Ralph Lauren all-American dream.

 

Image: Housing Works Thrift Shops via Flickr

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