Ralph Lauren’s father, a Russian immigrant who raised his family in the Bronx, New York, made his living painting murals, synagogues, and churches. When necessity called, he painted houses to provide for his wife and four children. “My father, people say he was a housepainter, but he wasn’t. He painted houses when he couldn’t get a job,” Mr. Lauren has said. “But he was an artist.” His youngest son observed in intimate detail how color, line, and composition became tangible through the hand of an artist, something that would inform Ralph Lauren’s own creative process. “The concept of making a product by hand with the expertise that’s been handed down through the years is rare,” he has said. “My goal is to search out that kind of craftsmanship and bring it to our world.”
Ralph Lauren’s cable sweater is iconic today in part because every detail reflects the world’s finest techniques: how the cashmere is carefully combed from the underbelly of goats in the mountains of Mongolia, or the way a centuries-old Italian mill spins and washes the yarn. The designer’s passion for working with the best materials and craftspeople around the globe is captured by the nomadic spirit of his Purple Label Fall 2017 collection—a season rich with artistic, statement-making sweaters that have worldwide roots.Fall’s journey begins with the bucolic palette of Scotland, from the shores of Loch Leven in the Lowlands, where a mill renowned for both its pedigreed history and its innovation supplies much of the season’s cashmere. The mouliné yarn of one crewneck sweater is twisted into a custom coloration that creates an irregular ombré effect within tones of loden. After the sweater [above] is knit, artisans spend up to 10 days hand-embroidering the front with 42 colors of silk, cashmere, and wool thread. The crown, flowers, and birds of the motif are inspired by an antique British flag, with the Latin motto RL Unita Fortior, or “United Strength,” scrolling across the bottom in reference to the unification of Scotland and England during the start of the 18th century.
- All photographs courtesy of Ralph Lauren Corporation