Last week, I met Ralph Rucci for lunch at Sant Ambroeus in Soho. The focus of the conversation was on – what else? Fashion. While Ralph did not show his Spring 2020 Couture Collection in Paris, he is going to show in New York.
Speaking of the Paris couture shows, what stood out for Ralph were the oversized pantsuits at Schiaparelli, which he thought were very chic. “I wish Yohji would do couture,” he noted, and then quickly turned the discussion to someone who he describes as “one of the greatest living designers.” And it’s not who you think.
“Most everyone that I honor is dead, so when I tell you that I honor Marc Audibet, it is because he is one of the great talents, on par with Mme. Gres and Thimister.” – Ralph Rucci
Marc Audibet is a French fashion and industrial designer, and a visionary. Audibet is celebrated in the fashion world for his research into stretch fabrics. In 1984, both he and Azzedine Alaia worked closely with Du Pont on a project to mix LYCRA with fabrics such as satin and silk. Audibet became a textile adviser to the fabric and fiber company. LYCRA was the most important development in fashion in the ’80s, and this was one of the two “significant moments” in his life.
The second was designing the “anonymous” look for Prada in the ’90s. Marc worked there from 1990 – 1996. Ralph stated: “Marc revolutionized Prada. That is the genius of Marc. Miuccia hired Marc when she wanted to shock fashion. After he got too important, she let him go.”
Audibet’s impressive resume includes work as a design assistant at Ungaro, Balmain, Mme. Gres, Genny, and Hermes. He served as creative director of Ferragamo from 1999 – 2002 and as a design director at Vionnet in 2007.
Rucci raved about Marc’s 1984 eponymous collection. He said, at that time, Bill Cunningham was giving Audibet a lot of coverage. Rucci observed that like Alexander McQueen, Marc has a vision that is “beyond,” but he always makes the clothes so that they have the “drama and impact from the wearer. It’s not kitsch.”
Regarding Ralph’s upcoming show, it will be held at 432 Park Avenue – date and time to be announced. There will be 21 looks (36 last season), and an informal installation on mannequins, which is the way he debuted the RR331 label in February 2016. Up close and personal is the best way to view Ralph Rucci’s designs.
Ralph wants his show as an evening event with drinks, hor’s d ‘oeuvres, and guests “dressed.” I immediately reminisced with the designer about his runway shows at Bryant Park in the ’90s and early to mid-2000s, which officially ended NYFW. Being held on Friday evenings, guests came dressed in Ralph Rucci or Chanel couture. Women made a special effort, while Bill Cunningham had a field day.
Ralph’s Fall 2019 Couture Collection, shown at the Ritz Hotel in Paris last June, was dedicated to his friend and muse 79-year-old Elsa Peretti. Ralph would not divulge who his upcoming collection is dedicated to, but this led to a discussion about aging and plastic surgery. Ralph observed:
“Look at Elsa Peretti. Gorgeous! It’s gorgeous when you show wrinkles. You earned your beauty through your wrinkles. You change as a species when you have plastic surgery, and it’s so unattractive.”
When I asked what the overall theme of the collection is, Ralph immediately answered: “White, White, White, White!” Different shades of white, cream, beige, ecru, and nude in double-faced wool and silk. Ralph feels strongly for tunics above the knee worn over trousers with short matching jackets.
“Do you know what I think is beguiling?” Ralph asked. “Nude and clear micro-micro paillettes on chiffon.” In addition to Orientalia, Ralph is inspired by architecture and interior design, so it’s not surprising that he sources both the interiors of Lorenzo Mongiardino and Passementerie Verrier, the oldest French house that makes high-end tassels for embassies, castles, and palaces. They, along with the fashion designs of Cristobal Balenciaga, are constant sources for Rucci’s evolving designs.