An American in Paris
A Left Bank fête for Ralph Lauren's planned restoration of the École des Beaux-Arts
Ralph Lauren is arguably American fashion's biggest Francophile: In 2010, his loving renovation of a landmark seventeenth-century hôtel particulier raised the bar for shopping in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. That same year, then-president Sarkozy awarded the designer with a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. What's probably lesser known is that, while the young Lauren may have nurtured artistic aspirations, his father, a painter, encouraged his children to opt for a steady job. Last night in Paris, Lauren came full circle in a way, reinforcing his ties to a city he loves and his love of the arts in particular: Over the next several years, funding from the Ralph Lauren Corporation will help restore the École des Beaux-Arts, located just a few blocks north of his Paris flagship, on the Seine. Lauren's largesse is specifically earmarked for modernizing the amphitheater and wiring it up for the twenty-first century. "One of the reasons I got involved with the Beaux-Arts is because I wanted to make sure I'd get a diploma," quipped Lauren in his welcome speech. "I was never sure I'd gain entrance, but now I'm guaranteed. I hope."
A glamorous roster of guests included Catherine Deneuve and Princess Charlene of Monaco, a strong showing of French aristocrats, top clients, and other friends of the house, all of whom attended the designer's first Paris fashion show—a full reprisal of the Fall collection—before moving on to a gala dinner in the Cour de Chimay courtyard, capped off by a special performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg.
"My father never finished college and he never became a painter, although his own father thought he had talent. So this project is very personal for him, just as the restoring of the Star-Spangled Banner was," noted David Lauren. "When my father walked through here and saw the students working, he just felt an immediate connection." Added his wife, Lauren Bush Lauren, "It's such a marvelous institution, and it's so important and inspiring to be able to give back." That giveback gene runs strong in the family: Next week, Lauren Bush Lauren will announce that her FEED bag project has just surpassed its sixtieth million school lunch for children around the world.