A fascinating and comprehensive look into the life of American fashion designer Ralph Lauren, now with an afterword.
“Deep-dish...sharp-clawed...honestly admiring.”—New York Times
There are at least two Ralph Laurens.
To the public he's a gentle, modest, yet secure and purposeful man. Inside the walls of Polo Ralph Lauren, though, he was long seen by some as a narcissist, an insecure ditherer, and, at times, a rampaging tyrant.
Michael Gross, author of the bestsellers Model and 740 Park, lays bare the truths of this fashion emperor's rise, and reveals not only the secrets of his meteoric success in marketing our shared fantasies, but also a widely unknown side that's behind the designer’s chic façade.
Like his previous book, Model, Gross's new work will undoubtedly be mined for the more gossipy nuggets embedded in his meticulous research and artful prose. This is a shame, because the crackerjack journalist simultaneously tells a compelling story and gives it meat enough to be satisfying. It does help, however, that his subject is intriguing enough to fill multiple volumes. Lauren (n Lifshitz) embodied a certain kind of American dream from early childhood, a kid who didn't just want to be rich, but to be of the rich, a Jay Gatsby made manifest who didn't have a penny, but fantasized about expensive cars, lush vacation spots and preppy girls in loafers. Gross details Lauren's story chronologically, and with a resolute pace: the icon's tale of ambition and meteoric rise unfolds smoothly as the awkward Jewish boy grows into the personification of grim determination. Gross provides surprisingly little commentary, given the book's slightly bitter introduction about Lauren's ping-ponging relationship to the project. What Gross does offer is a rich portrait not just of Lauren, but of the Bronx in the early and mid-20th century, the type of class clash that transcends time or place and the effects of ambition on a teenager who hates his name and burns with desire whenever a Rolls-Royce cruises by. There are passages that will delight the celebrity-obsessed, but the full story is much richer. Most importantly, and delightfully, Gross delivers a portrait of a man who's constructed a flawless image, but whose real self is far more fascinating and deeply human. Photos.