For some time, Ralph Lauren had been away, but he was happy to be back at his Montauk house on New York’s Long Island Sound.
He’d just returned from his first trip back to New York since moving to his ranch in Colorado earlier this spring, only two days ago, in fact. His time away from New York, where he grew up, had been the longest of his career as a warm Americana fashion designer.
In the mountains, he rode horses, hunted, and hiked. “Colorado was a different existence,” he remarked.
When Mr. Lauren returned to his primary property, an estate in Westchester County, he wanted to take some time to adjust to the new surroundings. As a result, he made a brief pit stop at his light and airy Frank Lloyd Wrightian beach house, built of stone and cedar and framed by the dunes and pines of Montauk.
While wandering on the grassy slopes of his property, Mr. Lauren commented that he enjoys a peaceful environment. An open basket of white towels was set poolside when his pool was first revealed, suggesting that even on an October Tuesday with temperatures in the low 70s, you could feel like going for a swim.
His favourite thing about the house is that it’s not a hassle.
In order to mark the reopening of the Polo Bar, Mr. Lauren agreed to an interview, which he does only a few times a year — to correspond with the event. After the success of RL Restaurant in Chicago and Ralph’s in Paris, Mr. Lauren made the wood-paneled, darkly lighted venue his own project when it launched in 2015.
During the pandemic, the Polo Bar was forced to close its private dining room and shift to delivery and takeaway. However, the private dining room was reopened earlier this year. However, the main eating area was not fully reopened until Oct. 12.
And thus it was reopened. That night, the dining area in the basement was bustling with discussion and clinking cutlery as people down the wide wooden stairs that led there. Dining companions welcomed each other, and occasionally slid onto another table or chair to join a new group.
One can mention actors Hugh Jackman and Al Roker as well as Oscar de la Renta’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, as well as fashion designers Tory Burch and Thom Browne. Stellene Volandes, editor of Town & Country, and an Instagram-famous couple with “the best abs in the world” were also frequent diners.
Additionally, on their tables were crowd-pleasers like the Polo Bar famous $30 burger and shrimp cocktail BLT salads and corned beef sandwiches.
The restaurant’s maître d’s wore a sequined gown Bella Hadid wore during Ralph Lauren’s autumn 2019 runway show, and he zigzagged around the room with a glittering golden figure. Two cooks worked in the back of the kitchen, slicing pastry dough and putting the final touches on the pigs in a blanket (an appetiser on the menu).
For example, when former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak unexpectedly showed up and demanded protection, the chief maître d’, Nelly Moudime, happily handed out personal welcomes and farewells as if she weren’t already one of the busiest persons in the room.
Polo Bar’s 40-year-old employee, Ms. Moudime, was one of the 90 percent of employees that stayed on during the epidemic. She worked on a script during her time off at home in Harlem before the takeaway and delivery services arrived.
She inquired, “Don’t you sense the energy?”. “It’s like we never left, but at the same time we know how far we’ve come and how close we are to a miracle,” says one of the survivors.
There were several accounts of how returning to the restaurant had temporarily removed diners from the world’s problems, whether for a few minutes or the entire evening. As if nothing had happened, the expression “it’s as if nothing had happened” was thrown around a lot. If you ask Ms. Moudime, she recoiled when the passage was read aloud to her. Covid took a dishwasher away from us. During the epidemic, some of our employees fell ill.)
Ms. Moudime maintained that the experience of being transported to another place precedes the pandemic: “The space transports you. As a result, it’s a liberating experience.
On her first night back, Ms. Moudime gave Monica Lewinsky a hug as she left, saying goodbye to her. That afternoon, Monica Lewinsky’s TV show on the Clinton scandal aired an episode depicting the “most terrible day of my life,” which she had tweeted about earlier that day. The Polo Bar was where she ended up staying that night.
An all-equestrian décor and cigar-smoking, tweedy, old-money grandfather vibe is what draws real estate moguls and irony-seeking young adults to the Polo Bar in New York City, where the promise of comfort and escape permeates the environment.
Charles Fagan, Mr. Lauren’s chief of staff and head of hospitality, stated, “They’re going to be intimidated, but they should feel welcome.” In order to help them, “your responsibility is to lower it for them.”
Mr. Fagan has worked for the organisation for over three decades. New Yorkers who walked into Mr. Lauren’s store were transported to an elegant English country house, even though Mr. Lauren had no restaurants at the time. It’s a strategy he’s never tired of using to create something new that feels like it’s been around forever.
A lot of items were ancient and pricey, like antiques, which was my first exposure to that kind of environment,” Mr. Fagan explained. “That was something I’d overlooked. I’d seen photos of it before. That seemed like sensible business to me as a 23-year-old — creating a whole universe only to welcome people into it.”
However, the first night back at the Polo Bar was noticeably lacking. It was in Montauk, more than 100 miles away.
Do I intend to travel there? stated Mr. Lauren, who was dressed in his distinctive denim on denim, aviator sunglasses, and a baseball hat (from his RRL work wear brand) that seemed older than it actually was, all while sporting his overgrown hair and his trademark denim on denim style. “Yes, that’s correct. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. However, I don’t appear to be scattered.”
That was his way of saying that he’s been “careful” with Covid-19. “I’m careful because I have a family,” he remarked, “but I know that the world is going out again. I find the Polo Bar reopening quite thrilling.” I’m the owner of a business. And I want to have fun with it.”
Mr. Lauren, who was previously the company’s chief creative officer and executive chairman, says he is in better shape than ever and has no plans to retire. In the event that he passes away, his son David, who is presently the Chief Branding and Innovation Officer, will continue to serve in an executive capacity.) Even though he celebrated his 50th anniversary in company with considerable hoopla in 2018, the hands of time continued to turn.
This is what I do for a living, and it makes me happy,” he declared. I don’t every day, but it’s not a question. I don’t even try.” Yes, but no one has inquired as to how long I intend to stay.
When Mr. Lauren was away from New York, Zoom released three collections during his absence. The Met Gala, where his brand dressed Jennifer Lopez, Kacey Musgraves and Chance the Rapper, and New York Fashion Week in September — the first live fashion week since February 2020 — had some people expecting him to return, but he said he wasn’t ready to bring one of his glamorous, star-studded shows to the Big Apple just yet.
He recalled the pre-pandemic days by saying, “People were really bored of runways.” They were looking for something new.” They can’t wait to witness a real fashion display again. In other words, “It’s all part of the fun.”
Mr. Lauren has been playing that game for the most of his career with a sigh of relief. For him, building things that last and improve with time is a way to “stand for something,” and he often claims he has “never loved fashion.” In spite of his immense riches, he considers himself a “regular person”—a fairly quiet guy who once appeared on national television in a Kmart T-shirt—and the driving force behind founding his Paris restaurant was a longing for a hamburger from the States.
There are more important things in life than clothes for the man who built his business empire on them, he argues. “We have too many garments—but you’re in business, you keep going.” The reason he started eateries and may eventually open a hotel was because of it. When asked about plans for the future, he indicated he’s still waiting for the proper time and place.
He said, “It’s all one story.” In addition to what you wear, going out is an important element of your life. There is a part of your life that is travelling to different places, and I don’t claim to be a genius.”