October 8, 2023Long before Instagram influencers got in on the act, fashion designer Ralph Lauren turned his lifestyle into his brand and his brand into his lifestyle. Now, Rizzoli has published a 544-page doorstopper — Ralph Lauren: A Way of Living — Homes, Design, Inspiration — that may require you to reinforce your coffee table.
The occasion is the 40th anniversary of Ralph Lauren Home (RLH), launched in 1983. Lauren, who has won every fashion award there is, was among the first couturiers to make the leap from clothes to furnishings, selling everything from blankets to wicker chairs to paint. (A 2017 Rizzoli volume celebrated the 50th anniversary of the fashion brand.)
The Home line became wildly successful, setting the template for a fleet of brands that transferred their aesthetic from the runway to private residences —spawning MissoniHome and Armani/Casa, to name just two.
In the book’s first section, sumptuous photography (both new and archival) and short, pithy text (written by Lauren in the first person) showcases the designer’s own homes. He decorated all of them with his wife, Ricky — in Jamaica, New York City, Colorado and the upscale New York State towns of Bedford (in Westchester county) and Montauk (in the Hamptons), not to mention his chic ranch in New Mexico.
A huge range of styles are displayed here, from the couple’s minimalist white apartment on Central Park to the antler-clad getaway in the Rockies. Each is perfectly curated, down to how the blue-velvet settee in a Bedford sitting room plays off the green felt of the pool table. “Our homes are a canvas for living,” Lauren writes. And he has filled them artfully. Aristocratic layering is a guiding principle of his interiors — never too many tartan blankets — but any time the color and pattern threaten to riot, wooden antiques and crackled-leather furniture keep it earthy and grounded.
The second section presents images of other lavish interiors, created for RLH advertising campaigns and other purposes, with models shown living the dream Lauren created. Among these are visuals shot by such noted photographers as Bruce Weber and Oberto Gili; Lauren is the rare person who could get Irving Penn to take a picture of juicy red paint on a brush, part of a 1996 campaign.
The third section provides an illustrated timeline of the home business, and even a “visual index” to see where the images were shot and in what context they were taken, occasionally identifying stellar pieces that Lauren didn’t design, like a striking ca. 1880 Navajo blanket seen at the ranch.
The volume’s heavy, glossy paper underlines the quasi-unreality of everything in Lauren’s world — it’s beautiful but impossible for anyone else to replicate exactly. Then, a double-page spread of a gleaming Ralph Lauren Home fork grabs your attention, and everything makes sense. That single dining implement, and the entire book, show that at least pieces of this lifestyle are gettable. So, why not dig in and take a bite?