link to michael gross's book site having not read it, i dunno if this book clarifies or makes things more confusing, but it seems relevant anyway. here's the best review on that page, IMO:***edit - i realize now the formatting of that quote makes it a headache to read - sorry about that.
Quote:In "Genuine Authentic," Gross walks the deft line of being sympathetic to Lauren the man without ever exactly flattering him (or, for that matter, cutting him to ribbons). ...Gross has managed to write a book that's likely to speak to business people and fashion people alike. He tells how Lauren evolved from a highly style-conscious kid in the Bronx to a salesman and then designer of neckties, to the head of a $10 billion international business. He lays out the minutiae of business deals gone wrong and explains how Lauren and his associates managed to pull back from the brink of financial disaster more than once. He also bares many of the problems that plagued Lauren's creative team over the years - namely, Lauren's tendency to ride his people hard, throwing tantrums when they were unable to read his mind, demanding from them a kind of perfection that could exist only inside his head. ...["Genuine Authentic" is] highly readable - and honorable. If Gross occasionally makes Lauren out to be a tyrant, he's also aware of Lauren's complexities. Gross shows us a man who's narcissistic and troubled, but he's also forthright about the ways in which Lauren is likable, charming and admirable. And he never diminishes Lauren's contribution to late-20th century fashion. Lauren has crowned himself the ruler of a dream kingdom in which authority and respect, a feeling of being somehow special, can be conferred by dressing in old-money classics - and, best of all, using new money to buy the whole package. "[Lauren's] saga opens a window onto one of the most taboo subjects in our increasingly borderless world - our lust for roots we no longer have and for status as a replacement for the privileges of birth," Gross writes. "It also reflects our abiding insecurity about class, and the paradox of the extraordinary wealth and cultural power that spring from the common clay of our multi-ethnic, multicultural democracy." That's a lot of weight to place on the back of a logo-embroidered knit shirt, but Gross has it right. Gross makes the case that one of the chief criticisms leveled at Lauren - that he's a "self-loathing" Jew who traded his Eastern European roots for the pretense of Waspy ones - doesn't hold water. Gross explains that many descendants of Eastern European Jewish immigrants don't know much about their heritage simply because their forebears didn't have a high stake in preserving their own bad memories of the places from which they came: They worked hard at never looking back....Gross captures what's genuinely interesting, and also very touching, about Lauren's early attempts to build a life of style for himself. If Lauren's story is proof of anything, it's that the right mix of insecurity and chutzpah can make you either very rich or very miserable - or, most likely, a combination of both. -- Newsday