The Lauren Clan Talks About Young Ralph; Potato Baker Hat Was First Sign of Fashion Sensibility

Veteran party reporters that we are, it takes a lot to impress us, but we did leave the dinner after Ralph Lauren's 40th-anniversary show feeling like we'd just been part of something special. Maybe it was the outdoor setting at the Conservatory Garden, maybe it was the towering arrangements of white hydrangeas — or maybe it's because we were sitting with every member of the Lauren clan, who happily shared their memories of Young Ralph.

"He was a quiet kid," said older sister Thelma Fried. "We didn't know he had this in him." "Yes, we did!" said older brother Lenny Lauren, who works at Polo. "He wore a potato baker on his head. He was always wearing hats."

Then Lenny told us about Ralph's start in fashion — "you could feel the passion in his ties" — and the creation of that iconic cowboy image. "He's a Fifth Avenue cowboy," said Lenny. "They did it for a campaign one year, and they put him in that hat and they photographed him on that horse. We used to go to restaurants after that and Ralph would say, 'Why do I feel like everyone is staring at me?' And I'd say, 'Because everyone here is in a shirt and necktie. You're in a denim jacket!'"

When we caught up with Ralph himself later on, he got a big kick out of the Fifth Avenue cowboy crack, since he now owns a ranch: "I'd like to think I'm a real cowboy now," he said. He seemed visibly moved by the evening. "I think this is exactly what should happen if one should have a 40th anniversary and live in New York and spend all your life in this world — to have a show and have people you admire come to it. I think it was the best show I've ever done. And I felt complete. You know those nights where you feel like you're having a wonderful dream? I can't believe that I'm the one living this life." —Jada Yuan

For more pictures and quotes from the Ralph Lauren party, including Martha Stewart, Sarah Jessica Parker, and more, read Party Lines.