He is the champion behind the American Dream and now it seems a dream has come true for designer Ralph Lauren who has been honoured by the Smithsonian Institution for his long-term efforts for promoting the Star-Spangled Banner.
The uber-tanned designer was presented with the prestigious James Smithson Bicentennial Medal by his friend, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The award was a recognition of his patriotism, with Lauren renowned for his use of the American flag, which is 200 years old in September, in his ad campaigns and designs.
He even donated US$10 million to help restore the original flag and an extra US$3 million to support the Save America’s Treasures programme.
The 74-year-old was honoured at the National Museum of American History following a naturalisation ceremony for 15 new US citizens – one for each star on the American flag. The 15 immigrants who originally hailed from Australia to South Korea were sworn in as American Citizens as a female bluegrass band sang the national anthem.
It was rather apt for Lauren to be presented the award at such a poignant ceremony, as he too has an immigrant background. His family moved to the Bronx, New York from Belarus. Mrs Clinton said: “Now surely Ralph and his family … could not have imagined, or maybe they could have when they landed in the Bronx, that their lives would be the embodiment of the American dream. In particular, Ralph, the youngest, would become synonymous with American aspiration and style.”
An emotional Lauren replied: “I’ve always been inspired by America, but I never thought I’d get an award for it.”
Lauren revealed his desire to design began when at school, admitting it wasn’t born out of a love of fashion but merely as a yearning to fit in. Fed up of the hand me downs that the youngest of all families have to endure, he started creating his own clothes. “When your parents are not able to afford the kind of clothes as a kid growing up, I had to work myself and earn my way and buy my own things,” he explained. “I just wanted to look like one of the guys and have the girls look at me.”
He started out selling ties from a drawer at the Empire State Building now his company Ralph Lauren Corp employs 25,000 staff and has the world’s top models vying to be the face of the brand. Lauren is certainly living the dream.