The RL Q&A: Ricky Lauren

David Lauren talks to his mom about family, food, and her favorite memories of four decades on Long Island’s East End

For more than 50 years, Ricky Lauren has been by Ralph Lauren’s side as his wife, muse, and matriarch of the Lauren family. She’s also a photographer, painter, and author in her own right. A few years ago, to mark the publication of her acclaimed book, The Hamptons: Food, Family, and History, David Lauren sat down with Ricky to share favorite memories from 40 years of summers on Long Island’s East End. Here’s an abridged version of that conversation, published in celebration of Mother’s Day 2020.

David Lauren: Hi, Mom. So as you might have guessed, my first question is … who’s your favorite son?

Ricky Lauren: Ha! Dylan!

OK, who’s your favorite middle child?

[Laughs.] Even better. OK. You get that one.

Thanks! You’ve done such an incredible job documenting our lives and keeping track of everything we’ve done since we were children. Why is this so important to you?

I believe it’s important to have a heritage and traditions to uphold. I think it’s very important to know where you came from and to be able to visit that from time to time and have the nostalgia of those moments embrace you. That’s why I have saved so many of the children’s toys in a special closet. The toys help us to identify the different stages that the children went through. You are able to revisit them yourselves, and the further hope is that future generations will be able to explore them and get to know a little bit about what life was like for you as you were growing up. I feel it’s also important as a parent to share your own past with your children. So over the years, I’ve tried to tell my story to you, as well. I think children should feel as though they know their parents as well as their ancestors. This is why I took each of you to Vienna, the place where my parents came from.

I believe it’s important to have a heritage and traditions to uphold. I think it’s very important to know where you came from and to be able to visit that from time to time and have the nostalgia of those moments embrace you.

When people ask me what my most valuable possession is, I’ll often tell them it’s my photo album, and that’s something that came from you. When did you start to keep such organized photo albums? When did that become so important?

From the very beginning of my life, because my parents had two albums with only a few photographs in them when they came to New York City from Vienna. They fled from Europe during the Nazi occupation of Vienna and went to China [first]. These photographs were their most prized possessions. Over the years, they accumulated pictures of themselves and of me as a little girl. They treasured the life that they had, and they felt so lucky to be alive. So they kept the albums that I loved to look at and hear the stories behind the photos. That inspired me to do the same. I always wanted my children to have the same experience.

I watched you create so much artwork over the years. What made you start using watercolors, and why is that such an important part of your life?

I love watercolors. The colors to me are clear and bright against the pure white paper, like stained glass or candy!

Maybe the color is where Dylan [Lauren, founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar] got her inspiration to make a candy store.

I think maybe she did! To me, color is very important. I believe a plate of food should be a beautiful, colorful presentation. Food is important not just for [its] taste and smell, but also for the way it looks, and color is very important in that experience.

I always felt very lucky as your son to be able to come to these amazing meals, where the tables were so beautifully decorated. You’ve always made eating together such an important part of our lives. Was that the same for you as a child, or was that something that started when we were born?

That was the same for me as a child, as well. Sitting around the table was a very important tradition and experience for my family. It is a precious bonding time.

A lot of people will say to me, “Your parents are in the fashion industry, and they must have been traveling all the time, and so you probably weren’t very close.” And I always say, “No, no, no … that’s not true.” I’ll tell them, “We always ate all of our meals together.” To me, that was one of the reasons we were so close.

I absolutely agree. Very often, when we were traveling, we were able to take our children with us. We were very lucky in that respect.

Can you talk about why the Hamptons are so significant to us as a family and why you decided to move there?

We live in New York City for the most part. The Hamptons, being [approximately] 90 miles away, are quite close and offer a very different lifestyle. There is a laid-back, easy social lifestyle. You can be as private as you choose. People have visited the Hamptons and come away invigorated and revitalized. Some creative people have considered the Hamptons their muse.

And where do you get your inspiration?

Nature inspires me wherever I am.

I’ve never done an interview with you, because you’re always so much more behind the scenes. When you actually put yourself out there, it’s so clear that you’re just as much the center of the family as Dad is. Sometimes people don’t realize how much influence you have on everyone in this family.

Thank you. Thank you so much, David.

  • Photograph by Ralph Lauren
  • Photograph by Susan Wood
  • Photograph by Ricky Lauren
  • Photograph by Ralph Lauren
  • Photograph by Ricky Lauren
  • Photograph by Les Goldberg