The king of American sportswear Ralph Lauren is receiving well-deserved recognition next week for outstanding achievement in fashion at the 2016 the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Awards. We take a trip down memory lane to celebrate the designer’s 29th award and to relive the highlights of a fashion career which has spanned nearly half a century.

Ralph Does Androgyny in Annie Hall (1977)

Ralph Lauren dropped his first womenswear collection in 1971 and by the end of the decade he was considered a key player. The brand’s tailored womenswear with boxy silhouettes and wide shoulder pads drove a new androgynous trend. When Diane Keaton wore Ralph Lauren in the Woody Allen comedy Annie Hall this translated to a spike in sales: women everywhere wanted to wear felt fedoras, turned-up pleated baggy slacks, oversized shirts layered with men’s waistcoats and of course, the neck ties that kick-started the young Lauren’s career ten years before. The Oscar-winning film helped the brand create, along with Giorgio Armani and Anna Klein, the famous “dress for success” power suit that dominated the next decade. And this year, Ralph Lauren’s autumn/winter 2016 collection paid homage to the style icon.

Ralph Goes from Posh Polo Player to Colorado Cowboy (1981)

In 1981 Lauren created the Sante Fe collection, inspired by old western movies and his ranch in Colorado. The line served as an alter ego of the Hamptons equestrian spirit that was so entrenched in the brand up to this point. This time around, the campaigns celebrated the great outdoors but without a manicured lawn in sight. The aesthetic moved between cowboy and Native American: graphic prints, denim, cowboy boots, concho belts and suede, mixed with New England, prairie-style full skirts and pie-crust collar blouses. Along with the influence of the scandalous TV show Dallas, Lauren helped spread the worldwide obsession with Wild-West fashion in the 1980s.

Ralph Twins with Princess Diana (1995)

This iconic moment in fashion history shows Lauren and Princess Diana stepping out in matching pinstriped double-breasted ensembles: Ralph’s was a classic suit and Diana’s a dress coat with a matching shift. Diana had Ralph Lauren in her DNA: the ultimate sloane-ranger, her off-duty looks included a button-down shirt and a cable knit sweater slung over her shoulders. In February, Kensington Palace will commemorate the British style icon with a new exhibition, Princess Diana: Her Fashion Story, presenting an archive of 26 pieces from the princess’s wardrobe. No doubt some of Ralph Lauren’s designs will make their way into the mix!

Ralph Wins Over Wimbledon (2006)

Lauren’s sportswear coronation was in 2006 when Wimbledon skipped on the British heritage brands of Burberry and Aquascutum to make Polo Ralph Lauren their official outfitters. Considering its reputation as the oldest, most iconic English sporting event with the wealthiest of guests, Wimbledon’s sartorial makeover had been long overdue. Lauren shook things up by dressing the 570 umpires, ball boys and ball girls in top-to-toe navy – not the typical green worn for over a century – caps, polo shirts, shorts and skirts all embroidered with that iconic (and inescapable) polo pony.

Ralph goes to Downton Abbey (2015)

Downton Abbey exudes the quintessentially English, traditional and wealthy image that Ralph Lauren has always upheld in his Hamptons-meets-Hampshire lifestyle campaigns. And Lauren himself may be the show’s biggest fan ever. He based his autumn/winter 2012 collection on the programme – models walked out to the theme tune, wearing masculine tailoring in wintery tweed, tartan and Prince of Wales check – and the brand became its official sponsor in 2013. Last year he took his all-American family away to the real Downton Abbey, Highclere castle in Berkshire. His son, David, posted some amusing Instagram pictures of Lauren posing in tweeds and white tie in the decadent Downton library while his wife dazzled in diamonds and debutant-style gloves.  

Text by Abigail Southan