“When I put it on, I felt immortal!” said NFL quarterback Cam Newton. The three-time NFL Pro Bowler and 2015 MVP isn’t talking about his Carolina Panthers jersey or helmet. He’s talking, of course, about the custom-made cape crafted from vintage Polo scarves that he wore to this year’s Met Gala. Paired with an impeccably tailored Purple Label suit, the flowing, multicolored style statement was Cam’s and his stylist, Rachel Johnson’s, interpretation of the evening’s theme of “camp.” Its name: Camp Lo.
A couple of weeks after the event, Newton stopped by Ralph Lauren HQ in New York City for an exclusive preview of the Ralph Lauren Purple Label Spring 2020 collection with David Lauren and EVP of men’s design, John Wrazej, followed by a trip up to the Ralph Lauren Mansion on Madison Avenue for a conversation on the cape, and the lifelong love of Polo that inspired it. Watch the video to the right, and get the full story of Cam’s Met look, below.
THE MAKING OF “CAMP LO”
Seventy-two hours. That’s how long stylist Rachel Johnson had to put some “camp” into Cam Newton’s Met Gala look.
Enlisted just a few days before the event—whose camp theme basically mandated that all attendees let their freak flag fly—Johnson knew it was a moment to make a statement. She just wasn’t sure how. So she did what anyone in her situation would do: she called André Leon Talley. The legendary fashion fixture’s advice? Cam needs a cape.
“I’m thinking, ‘Do I go to a costume house?’” Johnson recalled. “I’m thinking about all these different places I could get a cape. But if there’s one time you’re going to wear a brand head to toe and embrace the moment, it’s at the Met Gala. I didn’t want to go outside of Ralph Lauren.”
What would a Ralph Lauren cape look like? “I thought about old-school Ralph—how it was worn on the streets in D.C. or Brooklyn or Atlanta, head to toe. I looked for photos that embodied those memories that I had, being a Lo Head myself in high school, and how I used to wear it.” Johnson sent her photos to Cam, and the two reminisced about how they used to wear Polo, and what it meant to them.
“This would be a tribute to Ralph, to what Ralph has built, and what it means to Cam and to me,” Johnson said. “A tribute to the days when we bought Ralph Lauren but couldn’t necessarily afford it. When our parents had to save money to buy a Polo shirt. This would be a tribute to those days, and a statement saying: look where we are now.”
Her plan: to create a collage of iconic Polo prints using vintage rugby shirts, cut up and sewn onto a lightweight Super 120s black suiting wool. To track down her source material, Johnson reached out to Unique Style (known on Instagram as @polostore) in Canarsie, Brooklyn. They had another idea: vintage scarves. Problem was, they had just sold all of theirs to a collector a few days ago. They connected Johnson to the purchaser on Instagram. “This is Friday night,” she said. “The Met is on Monday. I don’t get connected until Saturday morning.”
The collector, Eric (aka @95nickelgleam), has well over 100 vintage Polo scarves, and they’re exactly what Johnson needs. Problem is, he’s out of town until Sunday night. The clock keeps ticking. When she finally got her eyes on the scarves, “there were all kinds of motifs to choose from,” she said. But “when I saw the crest with the medals around it”—there were eight of them, in different colors—“that was it. That’s Ralph Lauren.” So she and her team bought the scarves, got some sleep, and on Monday morning at 10 a.m., Rachel’s assistant Anthony was standing at the door of the tailor shop.
The next step was to figure out how to assemble the disparate scarves in a way that felt seamless. The solution was to remove the borders from the scarves to create one large border around the cape, and then layer the remaining Polo crests on top of each other, interspersed with other vintage prints speaking to classic Polo motifs.
At 5 p.m. on Monday, as Cam was slipping into his Purple Label suit in his hotel room at The Carlyle, the cape was still a work in progress. “It’s 5:30 and I’m hollering at Anthony,” Johnson recalled. “‘Cam has to be out of his hotel room at 6:15! Where are you?’ They stopped answering my calls, that’s how often I was calling them.”
Finally, at 6 p.m., there was a knock on the hotel room door—the cape had arrived. “When I saw it, I was just blown away. That thing looked incredible,” Johnson said. Cam slipped it on, his team snapped a few photos, and they were off.
“When I saw that photo,” Johnson said, “I thought, ‘Yeah. We did it.’”