Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President, Fashion Institute of Technology and The Couture Council of The Museum at F.I.T. hosted a wonderful luncheon reception at Brasserie 8 ½, (9 West 57th Street) yesterday. Sponsored by CIT Group, Inc., the occasion (which was sold out) was to inaugurate the Couture Council’s Award for Artistry of Fashion, and to honor their (very well deserved) first recipient, Ralph Rucci. Arguably, there is no other American designer today who so perfectly embodies the combination of fashion and art.
As if to illustrate this point, mannequins dressed in several of Ralph’s most recent designs (a mix of fall 2006 couture and spring 2007 ready to wear), both of which were shown last month during New York Fashion Week, were set up in a reception area overlooking the dining room, adding the perfect ambiance. The fashionable crowd (over 200 strong), seated in round tables and cozy banquettes around the decorative room, included celebrated customers, friends, and supporters like Iris Apfel, Tatiana Soroko, Amy Fine Collins, Charlotte Moss, Dr. Valerie Steele, Deeda Blair, Glenda Bailey, Joan Kaner, Casey Ribicoff, James Galanos, Linda Fargo, Ken Downing, and Georgette Mosbacher.
A cocktail reception was followed by a wonderful three-course lunch consisting of an appetizer (roasted butternut squash, bosc pear and Strophsire blue cheese), main course (jumbo lump crab cakes with artichoke), and dessert (the restaurant’s signature ‘8 1/2’ dessert tasting plate).
Before Ralph stepped up to receive his Mish New York designed award, Dr. Joyce Brown, Liz Peek (a Couture Council Co-Chair), Charlotte Moss (the famed decorator, author and Luncheon Chair), Jeffrey Peek (Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of CIT Group Inc.), and Dr. Valerie Steele (Chief Curator of The Museum of FIT) addressed the assembled crowd. Dr. Steele referred to “the art of weightlessness” to describe Mr. Rucci’s designs and talked about the couturier’s “highest standards of fashion artistry”, which deemed him the perfect first recipient of this honor.
When the always humble and soft spoken Ralph Rucci took the microphone, (dressed in a perfect dark suit with a splash of festive color via his vibrant pink tie) he spoke of his ongoing love affair with his chosen craft and how through his art, he hopes to “advance himself as a human being”. He thanked his “three levels of teams” giving special mention to Joan Kaner, Glenda Bailey, and last but not least, Vivian VanNatta (about whom he said, “I could not be standing here without Vivian VanNatta.”) He referred to the event in his honor as a “simple but quiet and luxurious lunch”, and I couldn’t help but think that those three words (simple, quiet, luxurious), not only refer to the man but could also describe many of his amazingly conceived and crafted designs.
All attendees went home with a beautiful white bound notebook tied with a chic black and white grosgrain ribbon, featuring several of Ralph’s sketches in the front and back. Before leaving, we were invited to continue the celebration at Bergdorf Goodman, just steps away, where the 4th floor was hosting a Ralph Rucci trunk show. We were also promised champagne, dessert, and a little ‘gift’. Since I was sitting close to the store’s senior vice president, fashion director, Linda Fargo, and I couldn’t’ help but notice her chic oversized black leather YSL satchel sitting on the floor next to her, I was sort of hoping that would be the gift. (Of course I’m kidding…NOT!)