Chado Ralph Rucci ivory printed gazar “antler chair” strapless gown
Hands down the most special and rewarding fashion experience of the week, occurred the day after the final show on Thursday, and it was not at Lincoln Center, but in Soho, at 536 Broadway to be exact. Far from the maddening crowd. As we all know, Ralph Rucci was to present his spring collection at his Soho atelier this past Monday evening, but canceled right before Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was to begin. Instead, he opted for individual appointments. My first reaction, as soon as I heard the news, was that I was pleased to know that I would be up close and personal with museum quality clothes, and talk with the extremely cultured, articulate designer, who is known for his excruciating, painstaking attention to detail. (How many times have we all sat at his shows and wished we could actually touch the garment or find out exactly how it was constructed?)
I arrived a few minutes before Ralph and had a chance to quickly thumb through the approximately 80 looks. It was a real treat to feel the fabrics – matte jersey, mohair, silk faille, printed gazar, cotton poplin and cotton canvas, organza, tulle, wool crepe, and get a good look at the construction, the details, the front, the back, the sides, and insides of the pieces. When Ralph arrived, we had a chance to talk about a range of fashion related topics.
Black wool jacket with circular horeshair insets
As for this collection, a study in black, taupe, ivory, and touches of coral, chrome yellow, cinnamon, and celadon, he explained that it is an homage to sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro, (who worked in flat planes). It features signature Ralph themes such as Charles James inspired elliptical cut sleeves, and the abundant use of horsehair. What I learned, (and it truly boggles the mind), is that in Ralph’s wondrous backrooms (where about 70 talented craftsmen make it all happen), they actually steam the horsehair (bend and shape it), so that it becomes pliable. One fabulous black suit with circular, (upward, downward) horsehair insets, was “4 years in the making – I’m so gratified that we can do this!”; a ‘simple’ (Ralph’s words, not mine) black t shirt, was given interest through insets of molded horsehair in a circular pattern; one black lightweight double faced wool and silk 7/8 coat had sheer insets that formed the pattern of a Louise Nevelson collage.
Black satin raincoat
Other mind blowing creations (and this only scratches the surface): an updated black mohair ‘le smoking’ (the midriff and sleeves on the jacket had horsehair insets embroidered in a sound wave design); a fantastically shaped black satin coat with beige outside darts (treated to be water repellent), which was shown with black mohair ‘jeans’ (Ralph’s ‘jeans’, ‘t shirts’, and ‘raincoats’ are not quite garden variety basics); a matte jersey pale beige knee length dress and long black gown given surface interest through cartridge pleating; several pieces in black or white wool crepe (jackets, coats, an evening gown), actually done in the “Pomodoro” technique; a beautiful and graceful strapless ivory gazar gown screen printed with a Han Dynasty chair whose legs were made from antlers.
Ivory pleated dress
When a model came out wearing a dramatic black bugle bead jacket over a black bugle beaded top and long organza skirt, the designer was quick to point out that he is now using bugle beads in lieu of regular beads because he’s tired of glitter (“no more glitter” he decreed). As for the supremely elegant and feminine see through Manolo Blahnik shoes on a new fabulous heel, Ralph noted, “I love an invisible shoe” and then talked about his absolute distaste for those heavy, clunky, almost orthopedic shoes that have been the footwear of choice for quite awhile now (I could not agree more!). He also said, “If I put my mind to evening clothes, it has to be stimulating intellectually and sexually”.
Black mohair ‘le smoking’ tuxedo suit
Speaking of being stimulated, Ralph is always thinking and moving forward. It’s obvious that he is confident and comfortable in his own skin. At this stage in his career, as he put it, “I know my limitations as a designer”. What’s up next? A line of furniture and textiles (he would not divulge the details yet but did say, “I’m in the company of geniuses” (no offense meant, but let’s just say he’s most likely not collaborating with Pottery Barn or Bed, Bath, and Beyond (details to follow soon). In addition, a website, www.chadoralphrucci.com (“a history of 28 years” he proclaimed), should be up and running by mid October. And while the customer may not be able to place an order for an evening confection that costs well into the 5 figures; she will be able to purchase more accessible things.
As for moving forward – that is literally the case; the company plans to move their headquarters from their current Soho location, to the west 20’s (Chelsea), home to many of the city’s famed galleries, and will hopefully be ensconced in their new space by April. Considering Ralph is a consummate artist, that’s a perfect fit
Looking ahead to the fall show, which will be held in February, I think we can safely assume it will be a formal show held in his Soho atelier. Although Ralph admitted that though the consensus of opinion among those who came downtown, was that they personally loved having an intimate view and one on one with the designer, he himself missed the “movement and dynamics” of a formal runway show. He also promised a “big surprise”. He wouldn’t say what it was, but with a twinkle in his eye, he told me that he had a brilliant idea for the collection and began working on it about 3 weeks ago.
All photos: Marcio Madeira/ firstVIEW
Francisco Costa’s spring collection for Calvin Klein, shown on Thursday afternoon, was a study in simplicity (could anything be more opposite Marc Jacobs or Ralph Lauren for that matter?) But for someone with an educated eye, you could appreciate the complexity that went into it and understand that there was really nothing ‘simple’ about it at all. Short, quick, and to the point, the 34 well edited pieces spoke volumes about paring down, and doing it with great attention to cut and proportion. There was nothing to detract from the clean look of the clothes- no jewelry, no handbags, and only minimal makeup. No big hair here- the models wore their hair pulled back in easy ponytails. The only accessory used was one shoe: a high heeled anklet sandal (in black, white, or coral depending on which outfits they were paired with).
Here, like many other runways prior, something in white (an ankle length chalk washed silk halter dress), began the show, and like several others, the emphasis was on neutral shades: chalk, pearl, ivory, straw, natural, black (balsam) and charcoal. When a welcome lone coral washed silk shift (hitting above the knee), made its appearance, followed by several in shades of blue, they were the lone bright lights. Layering, a recurring theme, was highly effective and chic in this monotone collection, and there was a real sense of ease owing to the use of controlled volume. Coats, which hit above the knee, had dropped shoulders, deep armholes, and wide sleeves (as did several tops), and were paired with cropped easy pants. Shifts, falling a few inches above the knee, were similarly eased up and fell away from the body.
The use of panels, pleats, and prominent pockets, added dimension and in the case of the latter, it could also be a wonderfully functional detail. How chic is the elongated v neck pearl double faced silk crepe evening dress with prominent side pockets, which would basically obliterate the need to carry a bag? Speaking of bags, on each seat was a small white shopping bag containing a bottle of the new Calvin Klein fragrance, ‘Beauty’. And it was.
– Marilyn Kirschner