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‘Wholesome glamour’: Ralph Lauren celebrates 50th anniversary with style

Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, Jessica Chastain and Robert Di Niro were there, as were Tommy Hilfiger and Diane Von Furstenberg

In Ralph Laurens world, celebrating a landmark occasion means doing so in one of the most famous New York landmarks of them all: Central Park. For his 50th anniversary show this weekend, the New York native returned to the same location as his 40th in 2008, this time round at the famous Bethesda Terrace.

A big birthday demands a big crowd, and many famous friends and red-carpet regulars who Lauren has dressed over the years turned up to show their loyalty. Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, Jessica Chastain and Robert Di Niro were all front row, as were Laurens fellow NYC designers including Tommy Hilfiger, Diane Von Furstenberg, Michael Kors and Jason Wu.

But it wasnt all about shoulder rubbing. The designers spring/summer 2019 collection, which saw the usually open-air public terrace transformed into a carpeted catwalk with velvet banquette seating, was another celebration this time of his brands style signatures.

The western influences by way of suede jackets, plaid lumberjack shirts and lots of denim dominated the first half of the show (Lauren and his wife Ricky have a ranch in Colorado); while the cosy-meets-all-American cool was seen in the high-low mix of sequinned skirts and heavily embellished everyday wear paired with a cable-knit jumper for women and tailored tweed jackets worn with dungarees for men. The Polo brand, which has enjoyed a resurgence of late (thanks to the demand for logos and fashion ticking the 90s nostalgia box) was well represented, as was Ralph Lauren sport, ski and scholar chic.

A sense of value that brings wholesomeness to glamour

But this show which featured more than 150 models wasnt so much about the clothes as the Ralph Lauren concept. The second part summed it up best when models arrived with children (some basking in the limelight to the encouragement of the famous crowd, others so little and nonplussed that they were sleeping), showing that Ralph Lauren is a brand that has mass market, cross-generational appeal.

Models on the catwalk at Ralph Lauren show in New York fashion week. Photograph: WWD/REX/Shutterstock

As Winfrey put it in a speech afterwards: The show is a bonus because the real reason were all here is not because of the show, but because of you Ralph. Were here to celebrate you releasing our dreams and creating a sense of value that brings wholesomeness to glamour.

The designer, despite his age and his achievements, shows no signs of slowing down. The chief creative officer and executive chairman who was the first recipient of the CFDA members salute award this year is clearly ready to enter his brands sixth decade with gusto.

In June, the designer outlined his growth plans to analysts at the New York stock exchange. As well as developing its digital arm, he said the five-year plan includes winning over a new generation of customers including the all-important Gen Z and its increasing spending power and expanding areas that the company feels it can achieve growth, such as denim, wear-to-work, outerwear, footwear and accessories.

Theyre moves that are supported by his chief executive Patrice Louvet, who was appointed last year, and so far so good. In July, Ralph Lauren Corp published its first-quarter results which revealed net income rose 83.2% to $109m compared to the previous year, while net revenues increased by 3.2% to $1.39m compared to the same period.

Nacho Figueras and Delfina Blaquier attend the Ralph Lauren fashion show. Photograph: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Around the same time, the company revealed that Laurens annual compensation had increased by 73% to $22.6m from his fiscal 2017 compensation of $13m. Louvet, meanwhile, brought in $23.8m during his first year at the company.

To close his show, Lauren took an emotional lap of honour at the end embracing his friends, family and famous attendees, remaining humble of his brands success. I dont dream this big, but this is beyond my dreams tonight, he said.

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