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PROFILE

alph Lauren has dressed presidents and princesses, first ladies and film stars. Hillary Clinton is a friend, so was Diana, Princess of Wales. He was at Nancy Reagan’s funeral; one of his sons is married to a Bush. Lauren’s American Dream includes everyone, whatever dynasty you come from. “It doesn’t matter who you are, I have something for you,” he says. “I make clothes for all kinds of people.” So does he dress The Donald? There is a pause as one New York billionaire assesses his relationship with another. “I don’t know if he wears my clothes or not.” (Melania, the third Mrs Trump, definitely does wear Ralph Lauren, I discover later.) “He comes to my restaurant.” Trump has been seen at Lauren’s Polo Bar in Manhattan, but what does Lauren think of him? “Well, you know, he’s a colourful character,” says the softly spoken designer carefully. “I like him. I know him personally. He’s a nice guy in person, you know. [But] I like Hillary a lot. I think she is very well equipped to do this job. It’s amazing how the world wants change in some way but you want the right people who really know their jobs to do good jobs.” Could Trump be president? “I don’t know,” says the man who has not built a $5.5 billion fortune by shocking people, either with clothes or opinions. “Hillary is trained for it. She has done the job. She knows what’s going on. If there is anyone that’s equipped she is equipped and I think that’s what you want. You don’t want to find yourself in four wars all at once.” It’s been reported that several other American billionaires are preparing to plough millions into the Trump campaign but I think we can safely say that Lauren won’t be one of them. However, he doesn’t rule out the possibility that Trump could win the presidency. People are “laughing about this guy. Meanwhile this guy is getting popularity from very reputable people. So who knows?” It is hard to imagine two more different billionaires than Ralph Lauren and Donald Trump. Where Trump is brash and divisive, Lauren is smooth and inclusive. Trump wants to make America great again; in Lauren’s world America is great, inhabited by people with beautiful hair and perfect skin, whether they are fulfilling a western fantasy in plaid and denim, or preppying-up the Ivy League college look in blazer and chinos. Trump has had to deny stories that he had pursued Diana, Princess of Wales. He said he had met her only once. Lauren, whose clothes she wore, knew her rather better. We are talking in Claridge’s, shortly before the opening of the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. The centre was opened by the Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the hospital, a

position held previously by his mother. Lauren met the princess at a lunch and suggested they meet at Claridge’s when he was next in London. “She came with her lady-in-waiting, I came with my son and we met here. I was wearing jeans and she said: ‘Who do you know that you can be wearing jeans? They don’t allow it in here.’ I said: ‘I know you.’ ” Lauren has designed gowns for Michelle Obama and his clothes are also worn by Robin Wright’s fictional first lady, Claire Underwood, in House of Cards. Plenty of designers, though, have brought their measuring tape to the White House. It’s much harder to get the Windsor Castle invitation, which Lauren received two years ago when he sponsored a fundraising dinner there for the Royal Marsden hosted by Prince William. “He has taken [the Royal Marsden role] and made it his own,” says Lauren. “I guess it’s important to him. He’s terrific. Very gentle, a very nice guy.” Lauren’s decision to make a large donation to the centre is the latest chapter in an almost 30-year personal history of supporting cancer charities. It was instigated by his own illness and the death of a friend. In 1987 Lauren was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was removed and turned out to have been benign. “But still, they opened up my head. I have scars here and here. I was very successful, everything was going great and this comes up. Still to this day when I see someone who has that I choke up. I really became aware of life and felt like I got off and I could help someone else get off.” After his operation his friend Nina Hyde, the fashion editor of The Washington Post, told him she had breast cancer. “I said, ‘I want to help. What can I do for you?’ She introduced me to a doctor in Washington, a very good cancer specialist, and he said to me that breast cancer would be cured in our lifetime. That’s 30 years ago and I thought at that time that I was going to help cure it.” He laughs wryly. “If he had said we are going to cure it in 100 years I would maybe not have got involved.” Hyde spent time with Lauren at the designer’s ranch in Colorado. “There, with the big sky, you are closer to God. I didn’t think she would die but she did.” He and Katharine Graham, the late owner of The Washington Post, founded a breast cancer centre in Hyde’s name at Georgetown University. Lauren has funded other cancer projects in the US and designed the first T-shirt for the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign, which has been running for more than 20 years. He shrugs off his contribution. “You realise you have done nothing and there is a long way to go.” Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz to first-generation Jewish

“Trump wants to make America great again; in Lauren’s world America is great, inhabited by people with beautiful hair and perfect skin”’

2016 JULY / AUGUST

33

Global Citizen 33  

Global Citizen's summer issue features the face of Bulgari jewellery - French model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Ralph Lauren builds his legacy with...

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