Fashion’s relationship with philanthropy is often well documented and publicised, since giving back (in a way) adds substance to style for an industry long considered frivolous and elitist. But good marketing aside, many designers actually have a genuine concern for the state of the world (backed by personal experience, philosophical epiphany or bout with illness) and have used their own powers to make a difference in the areas that affect them.
Arguably, the most prolific of these fashionable altruists is designer Ralph Lauren. The cultural icon who built a multi-billion dollar global brand dressing America is also recognised for his strong devotion to cancer care and has, in fact, helped galvanise the industry to fight against the disease. He has since received numerous accolades for his civic contributions, including the prestigious Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur.
“I hate when people call me philanthropic because I see it as more coming from the heart”
Lauren’s most recent philanthropic endeavour is developing a new state-of-the-art breast cancer research facility in partnership with The Royal Marsden. The Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research is set to open at the historic hospital’s Chelsea wing in 2015, and will be staffed by a team of world-renowned clinicians working with the latest in cancer research technology. The collaboration was celebrated earlier this May with an exclusive charity gala dinner at Windsor Castle, hosted by the Duke of Cambridge himself (thanks to his role as president of The Royal Marsden), as Marsden trustees and donors turned out in force alongside representatives from fashion, art and film to mark the occasion and fete Lauren’s generosity.
OVER 20 YEARS OF AMERICAN PHILANTHROPY
NINA HYDE CENTER FOR BREAST CANCER RESEARCH
Lauren first became involved in philanthropy when his close friend Nina Hyde (fashion editor of The Washington Post) was diagnosed with breast cancer over 20 years ago. In 1989, he co-founded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research in Georgetown in her honour
FASHION TARGETS BREAST CANCER
Lauren was subsequently the driving force behind the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s annual Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign launched in 1994, and also designed its famous ‘target’ logo t-shirt
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
Responding to president Bill Clinton’s call to preserve American heritage for the 21st century, Ralph Lauren Corporation pledged $13.3 million to save The Star-Spangled Banner, which now resides at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in a permanent display. This year, on the 200th anniversary of the flag, Lauren receives the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution for his contribution to its conservation.
“I am a product of the American dream, and the flag is its symbol. It’s been an inspiration for me, and now it will be an inspiration for future generations.”
POLO RALPH LAUREN FOUNDATION
Established in April 2001, the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation is the corporation’s front for various charitable initiatives in education, healthcare, community and the arts around the world. Among its major philanthropic commitments are the Pink Pony Fund and New York-based Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention.
PINK PONY FUND
Pink Pony is Lauren’s worldwide initiative in the fight against cancer. Using the brand’s polo pony as a symbol for the campaign, he emblazoned shirts and other paraphernalia and gave a percentage of their proceeds to the fund. Beneficiaries include the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention and The Royal Marsden (among other international charities) to support programs for early cancer treatment.
“Breast cancer is not just a woman’s issue – it affects all of us: the brothers, husbands, fathers, children, friends. Pink Pony is our effort in the fight against cancer.”
RALPH LAUREN CENTER FOR CANCER CARE AND PREVENTION
Established in 2003 in partnership with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and North General Hospital, the Ralph Lauren Center serves as an outpatient facility to provide healthcare for the medically underserved African-American population in the Harlem district.