Perhaps the most anticipated book release in the fashion industry for 2020.
Ralph Lauren is often hailed as an American icon, but I’d argue that he’s more of a worldwide icon.
There’s scarcely an adult alive who hasn’t heard the name, or who wouldn’t instantly associate the name to fashion.
He’s lived a long life without anybody releasing an official chronicle of his life and times, but that period is over.
Alan Flusser, menswear designer and author of several books such as Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion, undertook the task of writing a lengthy and detailed book about Ralph.
The task reportedly took a whopping twelve years.
Being a big fan of Ralph’s aesthetic, and having authored a couple of articles about his brands myself (1, 2), I ordered myself a copy and proceeded to read it religiously.
The book is presented in a similar way to Dressing the Man; a large, hardcover volume with a balance of text and pictorial content displayed on glossy, sturdy pages.
It’s quite hefty, and not the sort of book that can be read in bed.
The imagery is well curated, and the page layouts are aesthetically pleasing.
One of my main qualms with Dressing the Man was the incredibly verbose style of prose which Alan Flusser wrote it in.
It bordered on the ridiculous at times, and gave it a pompous air.
I’m glad to say that this book doesn’t suffer the same fate.
It’s extremely well written, and journalistic in tone.
Unfortunately, I did notice some editing errors.
On page 86, a sentence is supposed to run onto page 87, but it is cut off and the other half is never seen.
The transition on pages 87 to 88 repeat part of the same sentence twice.
Given the price and presentation of the book, this really shouldn’t be happening.
It compromises the integrity of the work.
The structure of the book is a mixture of chronological and compartmentalised organisation.
It starts off with Ralph’s backstory, which leads into his initial forays into menswear, first as a salesperson and then a designer of ties.
The evolution of his life is mixed in with his rise into menswear design prominence, up to a certain point in time.
Flusser then creates a new chapter dedicated to Ralph’s forays into womenswear, and continues the historical narrative, combined with the continuing evolution of Ralph’s life, through the lens of his womenswear from the 1980s onwards.
Contained in the womenswear chapter are separate overviews on Ralph’s various diffusion lines such as Purple Label and Polo Sport.
These two overarching sections comprise the majority of the book.
After this, the remainder of the book is dedicated to buildings and possessions.
First, the Lauren family’s various homes.
There are quite a few of them.
Next, Flusser covers some of the more notable Ralph Lauren Corporation buildings, such as the flagship stores, the corporate office, and Ralph’s Bar.
The final segment of the book, perhaps twenty to thirty pages, is dedicated to Ralph Lauren’s extensive collection of cars.
This is an unsurprising inclusion, given Ralph’s love of cars and his impressive collection.
A neat touch in the closing pages is where Flusser draws some notable comparisons between design details of some of Ralph’s automobiles and their influence on certain designs in his homewares and clothing collections.
Something I really appreciated about this book was Flusser’s inclusion of backstory.
In the opening pages of the menswear and womenswear sections, Flusser dedicates several pages to providing an overview of where each industry was at, in the lead-up to Ralph’s participation in these markets.
This was of particular use to me in the womenswear section, as I had limited knowledge of the evolution of the womenswear world.
It also serves to really drive home the impact that Ralph had on these industries and how he helped to shape them.
As mentioned earlier, Flusser’s writing style is so much easier on the eyes in this book than it was in prior works. It made reading the book a charm.
Length-wise, the book is a few pages short of 440, so don’t expect to read it in a night.
Do expect yourself to be lost in its pages, though.
It’s a well crafted narrative about a fascinating man who shaped the way the world views style.
You’ll pick it up, and you won’t want to put it down.