This post isn’t a film overview, for that I’ll lead you to my Hampton’s publication/colleague who interviewed Susan Lacy, the documentarian. It’s about the ability in which the Ralph Lauren design went beyond the showroom and into my every day life.
Ten days passed its premiere, I finally received password access to watch the HBO Documentary “Very Ralph” about the iconic fashion designer Ralph Lauren. The film hit home to me in more ways than one. It still leaves me wondering how many other viewers feel the same indescribable association.
“Very Ralph” tells the story of a brand created off of authenticity. Ralph Lauren manages to incorporate his various interests into his countless styles; the countryside and rugged horseback, timeless elegance and luxury parties, salty air and sandy beaches, even global influence with safari style. To list the myriad of ways Ralph Lauren has seamlessly incorporated the every person into his fashion label would be an article in itself. And one I’m ill equipped to write, coming from a strictly journalistic background.
But what rings true is that Ralph Lauren is a multifaceted man without a single label of his own.
He is the man on the ranch, holding the champaign class at a Manhattan penthouse, dipping his toes into the ocean with his children, and traveling the world. He is is the very brand that he delivers. In many ways, so am I.
Around my early teens years, my mother gave me a fashion scrapbook she created. Pages and pages of magazine cutouts. Styles she admired, many of which ended up in her closet, and a lifestyle she wanted to achieve, a flippable vision board. Escada, Versace, Herve Leger, the list of high end fashion labels goes on. I’m sure Ralph Lauren was in there somewhere, but not in the prominent way it was by the time I contributed to the book.
I grew up idolizing the Ralph Lauren brand. I’m not even sure how I discovered it. As a child growing up on Long Island, I’d ask my mother to take me to Americana Manhasset after school just so I could see the mannequins and explore the store. While other girls were comparing Bonne Bell lip smackers I was designing my future closet. I was far too young to purchase anything. My family wasn’t the type to swipe credit cards at my disposal, aside from the RALPH perfume which eventually became my signature scent. So, I’d browse. I’d touch the fabrics and take note of the way the clothes were put together, how they were paired and styled. It’s a hobby that still continues to this day, only now I marvel at the RRL store in East Hampton– I’ve grown to admire vintage.
Around the same time, my mother began to take me to polo matches in Bethpage State Park and Meadowbrook Polo Club, the oldest polo club in the United States. What bored me the first few years grew into a deep admiration for the lifestyle. I wasn’t there to observe the sport of kings, I was watching the bond between horse and human. Polo opened a window into a world that was otherwise unattainable. I never owned horses nor did I take horseback riding lessons because it was out of our financial reach. But by the time I was an early teenager I was going to weekly matches June through October. I befriended the players, the announcer, and formed new friendships. I loved the horses, the athleticism and their regal nature. Down the line, in my early 20s, I began working my way up from paraphernalia sales to eventually managing the same grounds I used to spectate. It became my lifestyle.
When The Polo Bar opened on 55th Street I immediately tried to get on the list. I called a month in advance and celebrated my 28th birthday there, dressed in a Ralph Lauren outfit. The Polo brand was suddenly part of my brand.
Since Long Island polo season was predominantly during the summer months, and only on Sundays, I worked two other jobs, one in Manhattan and the other in the Hamptons. In Manhattan, I worked in public relations on Park Avenue then as a luxury travel advisor at a top firm on Madison Avenue. I attended exclusive parties for champaign brands, top hotels, and beyond. When work would end, I’d find myself at invite-only tours of new locations opening up across the consumer and hospitality worlds. I’d get home at 11 PM to wake up at 6 AM and do it all over again, three to five days a week. It was invigorating.
Then, on weekends I’d travel to the Hamptons as a writer and event photographer. My media credentials gave me access to yet another dimension that was mostly depicted in movies or read about in magazines. A-List celebrities, CEOs, world renowned designers, an outpouring of big names all in a single location, and all within my reach. Through it all, I developed a refined taste beyond my means because it all came with my job description. A write-off-passage, so to speak.
The Hamptons introduced me to Lauren Bush Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s daughter-in-law, and Donna Karan, who are featured in the documentary. Suddenly, I became two degrees of separation to a vision I admired my entire life. It brought me closer to Ralph Lauren because I became the country girl, the city girl, the beachside girl, and later the world traveler.
Beyond clothes, the documentary touches on Ralph Lauren’s passion for his family, a quality my own father lacks. Growing up, I looked to movies, other peoples fathers, or my grandfather for what a male-role model should be.
The consumer world Ralph Lauren created, from the advertisements to store decor, became safe. His priorities were not only seen but felt in his branding. It was a story I was starved for.
The film highlights his active decision to decline summer invitationals and choose quality time with loved ones instead. In a Hamptonite society of lavish gala’s and places to be seen, it is true that in my now eight years and countless events I have yet to see Ralph Lauren walking a single step and repeat. It’s admirable and it’s the way I always envisioned my future family dynamic. Perhaps I just haven’t been at the right place at the right time. Or, maybe it’s because it’s true.
The advertisements, the dream, and the persona all tie back into one thing, it’s very Ralph Lauren.