Ralph_Lauren 1970s

The Coty (American Fashion Critics’) Awards first officially acknowledged excellence in menswear design back in 1970, with the honor going to none other than Ralph Lauren.  It signaled a new designer age in American menswear. True men’s fashion icons emerged and soon became household names — Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Alexander Julian — all went on to become institutions that inspire, influence, and in the case of Ralph, still strongly lead to this day. It’s a time in menswear that I’m unapologetically nostalgic over, having largely missed it– but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few legends of that golden age, and never miss an opportunity to mine them for all the nuggets I can get.


American fashion icon Ralph Lauren working in his office --1971.

American fashion icon Ralph Lauren working in his office, 1971.


Back in the early 70s, Jeffrey Banks (now a legendary fashion designer in his own right) was hand-plucked from Britches of Georgetown by Ralph Lauren personally, and came to work for him as a part-time design assistant.  Part-time because Jeffrey was still in high school. Jeffrey shared a story with me of when he had to get a shipment of hot-selling shirts over to Bloomies quick– Ralph’s orders. Time was tight, and Jeffrey was getting the runaround from receiving department at the store– so he decides to cast store policy aside and brazenly walked through the front doors of Bloomingdale’s 59th Street, both arms bursting with shirts for the Polo shop, much to the chagrin (read: screams) of the operations staff at the store. Here are your shirts, have a great weekend.  Love it.

Sometimes rules are for schmucks and you simply have to take matters into your own hands. Ralph certainly didn’t get where his is today by politely following the rules, he led. See, when you work for Ralph, you quickly realize that you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself, and there’s this incredible power of the brand behind you moving mountains out of your way. It’s a pretty awesome thing really.


Ralph Lauren checking out the Polo boutique at Bloomingdale's  --1971.

Ralph Lauren checking out the Polo boutique at Bloomingdale’s, 1971.


Continue reading


The beauty of being able to draw, or paint, from an early age is that you never feel trapped, least of all by your immediate circumstances.”

–Bill Blass


From The New York Times

In early December 1999, the mood in the Bill Blass showroom at 550 Seventh Avenue was as gray as the film of dust on a potted plant that sat in the corner and always seemed to be dying.

Blass, arguably the most famous of all the American designers, had shown his farewell collection that September and sold the company a few weeks later.  He had been ill for some time, living with throat cancer for years — he was then 77 — and he didn’t seem much inclined to argue with the new owners about who would fill his oversize shoes.  They wanted a name.  So the future of Blass’s longtime assistants was far from certain.  Laura Montalban, one of two top designers, left to work for Oscar de la Renta; Blass called the other, Craig Natiello, who had been with him for a decade, into his office.

“You’re not going to like the people who bought the company,” Blass said.  He made a phone call, then told Mr. Natiello, who recalled the conversation in a recent interview, that there was a job waiting for him at Halston.  “Here is your out. Do you want it?”

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is class.  Keep a stiff upper lip, tell it straight, and repay loyalty with loyalty. This kind of character is an increasing rarity, unfortunately. Kudos, Mr. Blass.

Continue reading