I was recently asked, while giving a lecture to graduating students of Miami’s Design and Architect High School’s fashion department, “Have you ever had a fashion moment that took your breath away?” Without hesitation, I replied: Yes. That fashion moment occurred on September 14, 2011 at the Chado Ralph Rucci show for Spring Summer 2012 at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week.
While the energy and excitement of that moment—yes—took my breath away, Ralph Rucci’s runway shows are always exceptional; his collection for Spring 2014 encompassed all things luxurious– an ethereal collection of white on white, fringe, flowing fabrics, sleek silhouettes and hand-painted artwork on a chiffon by Ralph himself. Brilliant execution!
His designs appeal to a moneyed, fashion-conscious woman whose taste and expectations of quality are of the highest level – a consumer profile whose loyalty would be welcomed by any fashion brand. When I asked Ralph to tell me about his Ralph Rucci woman, he replied, “My client is someone who can do whatever she wants, go wherever she wants and dress however she pleases—and she does it all with style and grace.”
No wonder Rucci is such a favorite, not only among the Palm Beach, Park Avenue and international socialites, but by all in the industry who adore old-style luxury and glamor.
Style icon Iris Apfel, herself highly esteemed in the fashion community, told me, “Ralph is a genius. Inventive, creative and marches to his own drum. He is so knowledgeable, and the fabrics he uses are just gorgeous. He is the best, and I am honored to count him as my friend. His clothes are simply timeless.”
Valerie Steele, curator and director of the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), and author of The Art of Weightlessness, an illustrated monograph about Rucci‘s exhibition at the FIT Museum, echoed Ms. Apfel’s sentiments. “What sets Ralph Rucci apart is how he maintains precision in the couture quality of his clothes, whether it is his couture or his ready-to-wear. His designs are timeless, but still feel very modern and of-the-moment.”
His brilliant couture collections inspire reverence, and with every stitch, he is bringing integrity back to fashion. Every seam, every dart is about fit and contour. Rucci’s clothing is neither conservative nor conventional; he simply sets the standard for luxurious dressing, with an artistic twist. Internationally, he is recognized as America’s true couturier and has been referred to—as Balenciaga once was—as a “designer’s designer.”
Awarded and honored numerous times by the fashion industry, in 2002, Rucci was the first American in 60 years (since Mainbocher in the 1930s) to be invited to show in Paris by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, which he did for three seasons. In 2011, he was inducted into the Fashion Group International Walk of Fame, and is the focus of Bauer and Dean’s Autobiography of a Fashion Designer: Ralph Rucci, with photographs by Baldomero Fernández.
Rucci has also been nominated twice for the coveted Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year Award and, in 2012, received an André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Currently, Rucci has pieces on display at André Leon Talley’s The Little Black Dress exhibit, at the Mona Bismarck Foundation for SCAD, in Paris.
Evolving he is: for over 30 years, Rucci has built and maintained the excellence that serves as the foundation of his eponymous brand. He has let go of the “Chado” and is now simply Ralph Rucci; his company has moved from its Soho studio to a spacious building in Chelsea; and he recently released his label’s very first advertising campaign, photographed by the famed Steven Meisel. With his Fall 2014 collection, he is attracting a newer and younger clientele with a smaller collection than in the past, with shorter lengths, slender gowns and playful prints.
Today, he is most proud of the fact that every piece in his collections is made in New York—American-made—and he has also expanded into home décor, with his furniture collection—a timeless, elegant collection—for Holly Hunt.
And it is Ralph Rucci‘s elegance that will always come to mind when someone asks me, “Have you ever had a fashion moment that took your breath away?” ■