After 50 years in business and countless accolades, Ralph Lauren has just received the most prestigious yet. Announced last Wednesday, Lauren has been made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a title bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth II. Lauren becomes the first American fashion designer to be recognized by Her Majesty with an honorary knighthood and joins the ranks of fellow Americans, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Rudolph Giuliani, Angelina Jolie, Steven Spielberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Angela Ahrendts.
There are few as deserving of the title as Lauren, who with his life and career in fashion epitomizes not only the American Dream but an international success story. Born in 1939 in the Bronx, New York, he first studied business at Baruch College and then joined the US Army before establishing his fashion company in 1967. At the start, he sold just ties to Bloomingdale’s, but quickly expanded into menswear and tailoring, with womenswear collections following. In 1972, he revolutionized ideas of casualwear and branding with his polo shirt, which featured a logo above the left breast. When he offered it in 17 colorways, you could say history was made.
But he didn’t stop there. In the decades since, Lauren has been the official outfitter of the United States Olympic teams, of the US Open, and of Wimbledon. He has dressed movie stars on the red carpet and in such films as The Great Gatsby and Annie Hall. During Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, he was her clothier of choice. Clinton, plus many more A-listers, turned up at his Fall 2018 anniversary show, held at Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain. Homages have been paid in the streets and in the skate park, most recently via a collaboration with the British skate brand Palace. But perhaps nowhere is Lauren more celebrated than within the fashion world itself. At the 2018 CFDA Awards, Lauren received the first-ever Members Salute, where designers from Donna Karan to Alexander Wang explained the influence Lauren’s brand has had on their lives and careers.
Lauren has a long history in the United Kingdom, as a friend of Prince Charles. He has attended numerous events with the royals and also dressed Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, for several appearances. Earlier this year, Lauren’s corporation continued its philanthropic efforts in the UK with the opening of the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
Lauren is expected to be knighted at a celebration in the New Year. Of the honor, Antony Phillipson, British consul general to New York and Her Majesty’s trade commissioner for North America, said, “I warmly congratulate Ralph Lauren on this award that recognizes these efforts and achievements over the past 50 years. In his storied career in fashion, business, and philanthropy, Mr. Lauren has played a key role in forging transatlantic cultural and economic connections. As creator and visionary of the Ralph Lauren brand worldwide, Mr. Lauren has been a vanguard for the global fashion industry and American style for nearly half a century. In addition, monumental philanthropic efforts, especially in the realm of public health, cancer research, and treatment in both the US and the UK, have led to benefits felt by citizens around the world.”
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This article first appeared on Vogue.com