by Stephen Garner
Ralph Lauren
Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

American fashion designer, businessman, and philanthropist Ralph Lauren has been made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE).

The honorary knighthood insignia will be presented to Mr. Lauren by a representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony next year.

Mr. Lauren is the first American fashion designer to be recognized with an honorary knighthood. Other notable American recipients of an honorary UK knighthoods or damehoods include former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, former New York City Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, Angelina Jolie, Steven Spielberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Angela Ahrendts.

“I warmly congratulate Ralph Lauren on this award that recognizes these efforts and achievements over the past 50 years. In his storied career in fashion, business, and philanthropy, Mr. Lauren has played a key role in forging transatlantic cultural and economic connections,” said Antony Phillipson, British Consul General to New York and Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America. “As creator and visionary of the Ralph Lauren brand worldwide, Mr. Lauren has been a vanguard for the global fashion industry and American style for nearly half a century. In addition, monumental philanthropic efforts, especially in the realm of public health, cancer research and treatment in both the U.S. and the UK, have led to benefits felt by citizens around the world.”

Mr. Lauren serves as the executive chairman and chief creative officer of the Ralph Lauren Corporation. Born in 1939 in the Bronx, New York, Mr. Lauren attended Baruch College, where he studied business, and served two years in the U.S. Army before pursuing his creative interests in fashion, ultimately growing his business into a global brand and a household name. In his 50+ year career, Mr. Lauren has been recognized with the Key to the City of New York from Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his outstanding civic contributions, and the French Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in recognition of his contributions as a designer, business leader and philanthropist. He was also awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, recognizing his lifetime contributions as a great American and his leadership role in the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has awarded Lauren many high honors including Womenswear and Menswear Designer of the Year, Retailer of the Year and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received the CFDA’s Humanitarian Leadership Award, the CFDA’s first-ever American Fashion Legend Award, WWD’s inaugural John B. Fairchild Honor, and the British Fashion Award recognizing Ralph Lauren’s legendary and creative vision.

Mr. Lauren’s philanthropic commitment focuses on those that suffer disproportionately from cancer because they lack access to quality health care. The Ralph Lauren Corporation established the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center; and the Ralph Lauren Corporation in partnership with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, established the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care in Harlem, New York. Most recently, the Ralph Lauren Corporation opened The Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, UK.

The UK honors system recognizes exceptional achievement and service to the nation, and includes non-British nationals who receive ‘Honorary’ awards for their important contribution to British interests. All British honors are awarded on merit, and honorary awards are conferred by HM The Queen on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917. Mr. Lauren may forthwith put “KBE” after his name if he wishes.