Ah man… I wish I was headin’ to the ranch to chill in my tee pee– just me and my peace pipe (check the pics carefully for a hidden blooper). But alas– no rest for the wicked, as they say. Ralph (who else) has a full working RRL Ranch out in Colorado, and it’s authentic right down to the… well, it’s as authentic as someone with his kind of dough and taste wants it to be. Set on over 15,000 acres, there’s lots of room to lose yourself and forget about cranking-out mesh shirts with little polo players on them, and just enjoy the simple life– in your own private Wild West fantasy. Ah, the simple joys of a humble life on the ranch…
“We started out with an idea of what the West was like,” Lauren said. “But what we thought was there wasn’t there. No large houses, no hunting lodges—not even a fence, like a split-rail fence.”
But he found the place he was looking for, a half hour from Telluride. He has since added to his acreage and now owns “15,000 or 16,000 acres”—he is not sure. “It was a little bit like pioneering,” Lauren said. “Someone told us about a barn that was 100 years old on this property. We saw the barn. We fell in love with the place.”
“Colorado was for us an escape. It wasn’t about being in fashion. It wasn’t about saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have this cute ranch!’ It was about a life that would be different, that would be freer—that would have nature and trees and animals and big sky.”
He built the ranch from scratch, and it reflects his active life and his sense of style, his wish fulfillment. When I asked him about his routine, he became very specific. “I get up in the morning and run. I come back, take a swim, work out. I built a very good gym for myself. Then we go horseback riding or take a drive. I have sports cars there and some old Ford trucks, some Jeeps, a red Ferrari. I like the diversity of speed and also riding an old pickup truck up the mountains.”
The place is more than a ranch with horses and cattle; it is, like all of Lauren’s houses, a design opportunity and a source of inspiration. He admits he has had only the most modest education. “I never went to fashion school, I never studied design, I dropped out of college.”
Plainspoken, he is an unboastful, earnest and intensely watchful person. And he is helpfully concise about his trajectory, from reimagining his first necktie in 1967 to designing just about everything these days—“a one-man Bauhaus,” as he has been called, though the word Bauhaus might not have entered his vocabulary until rather late.
Although he is an enthusiast and has a powerful visual sense and is relentlessly creative, he can be somewhat inarticulate. Ask him what he likes about the West, and he mentions an assortment of physical objects—the century-old barn, “animals, trees,” and also “saddlery, old leathers, oldness.” You know what he means, but you cannot quite see it.
His verbal imprecision seems to have given him an instinctive connoisseurship for the texture of the world, the pulses of the air, a feeling for atmosphere, for the mood of physical objects. He understands that the things we wear and the things we use and the places we inhabit cast a spell upon us, as well as making an impression on others. When I hinted at this, he did not disagree. He said, “I write through my clothes.”
On the way back to Manhattan, talking with Carrington Williams, Lauren’s personal chauffeur for the past 25 years, I said, “He knows how to live.” Williams said, “He do.”
Doug Bihlmeier relaxing and taking in his incredible handiwork. What’s that on the bed?
Text and some pics via AD