He’s done it again! Seventeen years after Ralph Rucci had the rare privilege of becoming the first American designer since Mainbocher to show a couture collection in Paris, he is back where he belongs doing what he does best. Rucci, who left his high-end namesake label in 2014, presented his RR 331 Fall/Winter 2019/2020 Couture Collection at the Ritz Hotel late Sunday morning.
RR 331 stands for Ralph Rucci and 331, the number of steps in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Ralph has enormous reverence for Japanese culture and specifically, for the harmony, purity, and respect, which are inherent in this ceremony. These are the elements he always strives for in his life and in his work.
For this designer, it’s always an evolution, not a revolution of what he has done before. His design heroes are Balenciaga and Halston, which speaks volumes about his finely honed sense of aesthetics and personal, individual way of looking at and thinking about luxury.
He once said that he believes that one piece of wood worn around the neck can be more dramatic than a pound of diamonds and describes his customer as a woman who has her own style and a certain eccentricity. One of his longtime muses is the perennially chic Elsa Peretti, who this collection was dedicated to.
The 79-year-old philanthropist and jewelry designer, known for the ultra-modern jewelry she designed for Tiffany, was a Halston model and part of his inner circle. Elsa met Ralph in the ’70s when he worked for the legendary designer. Rucci admired the way Halston, a Balenciaga devotee, took “the idea of simplicity and gave it a grander and more modern point of view.”
He also wanted to learn from the legendary Salvatore Cardello who ran Halston’s workroom and who trained as a young boy at Balenciaga. And learn he did.
There has always been a strong parallel between Balenciaga’s pure of line, modernistic silhouettes, Halston’s glamorous, ultra-modern, deceivingly simplistic creations, and Ralph Rucci’s remarkable techniques and his uncompromising vision of couture. All of which were exemplified on Sunday morning.
The accomplished painter, sculptor, and designer promised that the collection would have a monastic quality and a stripped down reduction of decoration and more of an application of the drape- technique that couture was founded on and he delivered. The lack of embellishment highlighted the perfection of construction.
Many of the pieces were shown with flat shoes or flat boots, which imbued a youthful elegance. High heeled sandals were shown with the eveningwear. The subdued color palette took its cues from the Renaissance (Italian, French, Netherlands) and was centered around black, taupe, navy, camel, ivory enlivened with touches of cinnabar, puce, coral, and a gray/violet.
The puce double-faced satin tunic and stole shown with a rose gold double-faced satin apron and peony palazzo pant was one standout in particular. A self-belted cinnabar duchess satin gown had the ease of a luxurious elongated shirt.
The fabrics used were double-faced cashmere, double-faced crepe, silk georgette, silk crepe, tulle, duchess satin, crepe backed satin, chiffon, and velvet. And of course, there was Barguzine sable; a Rucci signature. In Ralph’s hands, the belted coat in taupe Barguzine sable coat had the ease of a luxurious bathrobe.
Other Rucci signatures on view were the funnel neck jackets, rounded caped shapes, and the employment of slivers of silk tulle exposing the contours of the body. And what Rucci collection would be complete without one or more Infanta dresses?
As Leonard di Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and that perfectly describes this 33 piece collection. It was well edited, unpretentious, and simplistic, which I believe, is Ralph at his best. Of course, we all know that even if the overall effect is one of simplicity, there is nothing at all simple about the thought that goes into the designs, the unerring rigorousness, the meticulous attention to detail, or the complexity of workmanship that has come to define Ralph’s work.