By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Designer Ralph Lauren, who has helped create a classic American style, celebrated 40 years in fashion on Saturday with a collection of his trademark looks that have made him one of the industry's most successful and influential figures.
His elegant show in Manhattan's Central Park, complete with champagne and caviar for guests, evoked images of "My Fair Lady" and an afternoon at Britain's Ascot Racecourse, with models wearing designs from racing silks and jodhpurs to floral party dresses and silk tuxedos.
The 67-year-old Lauren, who was born Ralph Lifshitz in New York and began selling neckties in 1967, has long fused traditional equestrian style with influences from the American West, society tea parties, old school plaids, the yachting set and the comfort of tweeds and cable-knit sweaters.
His mesh shirt with the polo player logo is a staple in many wardrobes, and Lauren has marketed lines of clothing, home decor and furnishings to appeal to the affluent and those who want to look that way. Lauren is chairman and chief executive officer of Polo Ralph Lauren.
"He's the leader. His imprimatur is on everything that he wants it to be," said Stan Herman, former head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
"You just know it's Ralph, and how few designers can do that. His 40 years in fashion have definitely changed the way people think about a fashion designer," Herman said.
In Saturday's show, models sported riding coats and fitted, high-necked jackets in cream and black or in bright pink and emerald racing silks.
Glittery jodhpurs were paired with beaded vests. Models in jaunty houndstooth jackets and pants wore silk jockey caps, top hats, bowlers or wide-brimmed straw hats with fanciful feathers by milliner Philip Treacy.
Evening gowns were slender, trimmed with flounces at the hem, puffed sleeves and large double-ruff collars. In the final of the 72 looks -- twice as many as are typically found at a New York fashion show -- Lauren's model wore slinky, silver chain beaded floor-length gown with an open back.Ralph Lauren celebrates 40 years with early century elegance
Ralph Lauren: 40 Years In The Biz