Why Balenciaga Needs Ralph Rucci

Ralph Rucci in his Manhattan Apartment
Photo: Courtesy Ralph Rucci

On Friday, Balenciaga president and chief executive officer Cédric Charbit went public with his “sincere apologies for the offense we have caused”. Demna Gvasalia posted an apology on his Instagram account. Among the many who saw this as a case of “Too Little Too Late” is Ralph Rucci, who wasted no time posting his own response to Demna:

“I am sending you this message as a DM since your public forum has been closed to save you much embarrassment. My name is Ralph Rucci, and I have worked with deep devotion within the couture métier for the past 42 years. My most significant mentor has been Monsieur Cristobal Balenciaga. I have stood by for years now and witnessed your disparaging behavior, remarks, and complete lack of acumen for his legacy. I am qualified to tell you sir, that you are utterly unqualified to be the director of this house…”

– Ralph Rucci
Balenciaga Fall 2021 Couture
Photo Courtesy of Balenciaga

Ralph has been consistently critical of Demna’s work and staunchly verbal in his dismay over how Gvasalia has turned Balenciaga into a running joke, conveniently using it as a “springboard for mediocrity and tastelessness.” To be fair, Ralph did praise much of Demna’s Balenciaga Fall 2021 Haute Couture Collection. Of course, the reason it was highly acclaimed because it was an obvious homage to Cristobal.

Just weeks ago, Rucci posted this comment: “Today I had to visit Bergdorf Goodman, and I stopped and was glued in my tracks in front of the boutique beginning with a B and ending with an A. Horror, Shame, completely unqualified to hide behind the name and the history. Essentially Trash jacked up by advertising dollars.

Left: Cristobal Balenciaga Evening Dress 1967 Photographed by Cecil Beaton in-1971 Right: RR 331 Fall 2019 Haute Couture Black Velvet and Duchess Satin Infanta Photo by Firstview,com

Not only is Rucci supremely qualified to criticize Demna’s work, he is also completely qualified to take over as Creative Director of Balenciaga. In fact, Rucci is the perfect person to restore honor to the house. We at Lookonline have supported Ralph over the years, and for a good reason. Ralph is an American Treasure, an exclusive unique talent, a genius who stands alone in the fashion world. He cannot be compared to anyone else. And no matter how you look at it, when it comes to Rucci, all roads lead back to Balenciaga.

RR 331 Fall 2019 Haute Couture Camel Double Faced Cashmere Kite Coat
Photo by Firstview.com

There has always been a strong parallel between Balenciaga’s pure line, modernistic silhouettes, Balenciaga devotee Halston’s glamorous, ultra-modern, deceivingly simplistic creations, and Ralph Rucci’s remarkable techniques and his uncompromising vision of couture. In the ’70s, when Rucci got a job working for Halston, he was thrilled to be trained by the legendary patternmaker Salvatore Cardello. Cardello, who ran Halston’s workroom, was trained as a young boy at Balenciaga.

Ralph Rucci Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

Rucci has received many well-deserved awards and accolades during his stellar and prolific career. He was honored with a star on the Fashion Walk of Fame, has been nominated twice by the CFDA as womenswear designer of the year, and has been the subject of two books and documentaries.

Ralph Rucci The Art of Weightlessness
Photo: The Museum at FIT

His couture gowns are part of the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, among many others.

Ralph Rucci The Art of Weightlessness
Photo: The Museum at FIT

Ralph was the first designer to be honored with FIT’s Couture Council Artistry in Fashion Award and was the subject of a retrospective, “Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness,” at the Museum at FIT in 2007. The images from this stellar exhibition, marking the 25th anniversary of Rucci’s career, speak volumes about the designer’s abundant talents.

Ralph Rucci Fall Winter 2006 Haute Couture Suit Made of Suspensions
Photo: Courtesy Ralph Rucci

The first American to show officially during Paris couture since Mainbocher in the 1930s. Rucci brings a unique approach to his métier combined with meticulous attention to detail and unmatched couturier techniques. The amount of handwork involved in each of his finished garments is extraordinary.

Ralph Rucci Satin Duchess & Alligator Infanta
Photo Courtesy Ralph Rucci

Rucci was already working with the world’s most expensive and exclusive textiles when he presented his first haute couture collection in Paris in 2002. Since the late 90s, Rucci’s use of high-quality materials has fueled the ever-increasing sophistication of his work as it accelerated his evolution as a couturier.

Chado Ralph Rucci Fall 2012 Ready-to-Wear
Photo: vogue.com

For this designer, it’s always an evolution, not a revolution of what he has done before. Ralph has a finely honed sense of aesthetics and a very personal, individual way of looking at and thinking about luxury. He has said that fashion is always about “eccentricity” (his customer is a woman with her own style and a certain eccentricity).

Ralph Rucci fitting one of his favorite dresses on Anna Cleveland
Photo: Courtesy Ralph Rucci

Art influences abound in fashion but as a lifelong student of art and a prolific artist and sculptor himself. Rucci is amply prepared to deconstruct his own art influences, a rarity in the fashion world.

An exacting perfectionist (and I mean that in the best possible way), Rucci has a finely honed, singular and signature aesthetic that reflects the passions and loves of his life. All of Ralph’s influences are exhibited in every facet of his life, daily: from the way he lives to the designs he creates.

I respect Ralph as a person, designer, and scholar, and I always learn something from him whenever we talk. Most importantly, Ralph has a deep emotional attachment to his chosen métier, and he would bring integrity back to the house of Balenciaga. “There is no separation between work and my life. When I am detached from it, there’s great sadness. My work puts me in the center of my existence”.

RR331 Fall Winter 2022 Haute Couture Ivory Ultrasuede Coat
and High-Waisted Pant

Last May, Ralph Rucci was among the Fashion Institute of Technology’s keynote commencement speakers. Before receiving an honorary doctorate degree, he shared some words of wisdom with the graduates. One piece of advice he wanted to emphasize: “There is no such thing as failure.”

Have a comment or opinion? Let us know!

Latest Comments:

  1. Great reporting, once again, by Marilyn, not to mention her critiques. Perfectly spot-on and correct.

  2. Yes, Ackerman: “So the more and more we can restrain each other and be quiet and silent- I think that’s…

  3. Hello Marilyn, At last we have Haider Ackerman, providing clothes that are beautiful, becoming and wearable. Yes, believe it or…

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. Thank you for another informative article, Marilyn, and for sharing Ralph Rucci’s well-stated response on the Balenciaga disaster.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. Ralph will bring back beauty to fashion. Enough with the sideshow attractions.

  3. You could say Rucci is devoted to beauty but really he’s devoted to truth and beauty is how he finds it – again and again. Genius and brilliance are not often found beside humility and integrity. Ralph Rucci is as good a person as he is gifted. He deserves not just this position but also the freedom and support to design whatever he desires.

  4. That would be the ultimate for my dear friend of years back. He is the BEST and deserves everything he is blessed with. I know how hard he has worked!

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