Ralph Lauren, the company, posted a charming photo of Ralph and Ricky Lauren on their social media feeds this past week for New Years. The picture was originally shot for a 1992 issue of Vogue. A bit faded and grainy, the image shows the couple sweetly posing for the photographer, while sitting on the steps of some building and dressed for the night’s black tie event. “From my family to yours, may the year ahead bring you happiness, good health, and the opportunity to dream,” wrote the designer.
I’ve always thought Ralph Lauren was his own best advertisement, and among the hundreds of images that have been published of him with his family, my favorites are the ones you see at the top half of this post. These images were originally taken in the 1970s, shortly after the birth of the couple’s three children, and they show where the family lived when they first moved to the Hamptons. The big house you see at the back is actually a converted red barn, which sat behind an old clapboard Colonial home. The place was so rustic that the family once found a bird’s nest perched on one of the ledges of their indoor ceiling beams.
The thing I love most about these photos is how everything manages to look aspirational and yet also relatable, almost like a perfect distillation of what defines Ralph Lauren as a brand. Ralph is pictured wearing an open, tucked-in flannel shirt, layered over a henley, while Ricky is sporting a pair of denim coveralls. Their home had beat-up leather chairs and Native American weavings; the wood paneled walls look weathered; and the doors stood floor-to-ceiling. You can imagine a place like that would get drafty, but luckily the living room had a large fireplace with a ledge where you could sit. In the kitchen, there was a huge sink, which Ricky Lauren used to alternate baths for her first child, Andrew, as well as the family’s big dog.
Contrast this to the other homes the Lauren family has bought since. There’s the apartment in Manhattan and two houses not far away: a beach house in Montauk, at the tip of Long Island, and an estate in Bedford, which is an hour north of New York City. There are also two more distant getaways: a ranch in Colorado, and a two-house retreat in the posh Round Hill Resort, near Montego Bay in Jamaica. All look lovely, but also vaguely like the catalogs the company sends out to market their homewares – beautiful, but cluttered, and often vaguely aristocratic. For me, this old barn in Southampton is the best of the bunch.
In interviews, Ralph Lauren has said he designs his collections around an idea, often a person situated in a time and place, but you can’t help but get the sense that those inspirations are taken from his life. He once said of his wife: “I didn’t like the girl with all the makeup and high heels. I liked the girl in jeans and a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, wearing her boyfriend’s jacket. That’s the girl I am attracted to. That’s the girl I married, Ricky.“ The photos of Ralph with his wife are still the company’s best marketing tools, and decades after they were taken, continue to feel stylistically relevant.
Pictured below: some images of the Laurens at their Southampton home in the ‘70s, then some other photos of the couple throughout the years.