“You have more information than I do,” he says genially. When I ask if he is astonished at how far he has come from his humble upbringing, he says matter-of-factly: “No, I don’t feel that way. I just keep going. I still work hard every day. I do the same thing I have always done. I’m not ready to stop. I like what I do.” He concedes, however, that “I can’t do it for ever”. Last year he handed over the chief executive role to Stefan Larsson, who had been running the Gap-owned Old Navy. For now he will remain as executive chairman and chief creative officer. The challenge is to ensure that a brand that he embodies can one day survive without him. He says that Valentino and Givenchy have both retired and their companies live on. Lauren has two sons and a daughter with Ricky, his wife of 51 years. She appears briefly at the start of the interview and is introduced as “my biker girl” because of the motorcycle jacket she is wearing. The whole family have always appeared in Ralph Lauren promotional material, playing at cowboys or hanging out on the beach. Ricky’s book about the family’s enviable summers in the Hamptons is on display in the store in Bond Street. The Ricky bag is named after Lauren’s wife, but when I ask about her influence on the business he stresses that she has her own career as a therapist. His younger son, David — whose wife, Lauren Bush Lauren, is a niece of George W Bush — is a senior executive at the company. The older son, Andrew, is a film producer and his daughter, Dylan, owns what claims to
be the biggest sweet shop in the world, in New York. “I don’t know if they would run the company,” he says of his children, but he hopes they will be involved. Right now, he insists, “I feel like I’m 42. I don’t feel my age. Maybe I will.” He works out five days a week, but doesn’t find running easy because he has a pin in his ankle, the result of a car accident. He works so hard at promoting the Ralph Lauren lifestyle. Does he get the chance to enjoy that lifestyle? “Yeah, I have a good life. I have no complaints. I bought this ranch and turned it into a working ranch. I would like to spend more time there but I don’t have that much.” He is dressed, of course, head to toe in Ralph Lauren: jacket, shirt, tie, grey flannel trousers, even a Ralph Lauren watch and signet ring. I am wearing my best suit, which was handmade for my wedding 16 years ago. “I like what you are wearing. It’s low key, it’s timeless. Looks good on you,” he says. I know he’s just being charming, but I’m happy to hear it. I don’t get complimented on my dress sense by one of the world’s most-famous menswear designers all that often. I respond by asking how influenced he was by John F Kennedy’s impeccable style. Very influenced, he says. That’s interesting, I say, because I was looking at some photographs of JFK the other day and he looked like . . . “Like you,” cuts in Lauren, suavely, indicating my old-school tailoring. This is clearly absurd flattery, but, hey, this is Ralph Lauren. His whole world is based on the rest of us dreaming his dream.
Ralph Lauren with close friend and Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton 2016 JULY / AUGUST