Ralph Rucci At Home With Couture

Ralph Rucci in his home salon with “Jimmy” – Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Ralph Rucci resides in a jewel of an apartment. The sumptuous, antique-filled penthouse on the Upper East Side, with a beautifully landscaped wrap-around terrace, has been featured in several magazines. A while back, Rucci decided to turn his abode into a warm, inviting salon to receive his couture customers, an undertaking realized with the help of Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture, a firm known for their minimalism. “It’s a great twist. My new couture salon is my home,” says Rucci.

It was more of a fine-tuning than a complete overhaul. Ralph is continually inspired by architecture and interior design, and he routinely sources the interiors of Lorenzo Mongiardino and Passementerie Verrier, the oldest French house that makes high-end tassels for embassies, castles, and palaces.

The task took about two years to complete and involved, among other things, mirrors being added to ensure that everything sparkles, two taupe ostrich-covered Billy Baldwin slipper chairs, a brown velvet sofa with Barguzin sable throw, a new fireplace and mantle, and the addition of sculptures that were in storage. The piece de resistance is Pauline de Rothschild’s famous bed.

“I am using Pauline de Rothschild’s bed as a couture rack, but I see it as a multi-purpose bed to sleep in and have sex in. It’s also perfect for having tv dinners on trays.”

Ralph Rucci

Pauline de Rothschild’s bed is the centerpiece of Ralph Rucci’s bedroom – Photo by Jacek Ratkowski

Beverly Jackson, a friend of Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, whom Ralph befriended doing trunk shows in Santa Barbara, passed away three years ago. In her will, the larger-than-life Francophile left Ralph Pauline’s famous steel and vermeil bed from her Paris apartment. The Giacomette-esque hammered iron bed, which will be used as a couture rack, is the centerpiece of Ralph’s bedroom. Talk about “Bed, bath, and Beyond!”

Bonetti/Kozerski designed the pagoda racks, which were made to resemble the bed. There will be stools for clients to sit on, a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, and an 18th-century Japanese chest will be added shortly.

“Always an Extraordinary and Inspiring journey into the world of Couture through Ralph Rucci’s vision!”

Bil Donovan, Illustrator

The living room flanked by two Billy Baldwin ostrich covered chairs – Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

While I was seated on one of the Billy Baldwin ostrich-covered chairs in the living room, Ralph walked me through the 37-piece collection, which takes the form of a lookbook. As in the past several seasons, a fabric-swatched Rucci sketch is amplified by a Bil Donovan illustration.

Jimmy, Ralph’s beloved and very spoiled 4-year old rescue Bulldog named after James Galanos (his beautiful coat blends in perfectly with the decor, I might add), was right by Ralph’s side along with Jacek Ratkowski, Ralph’s right arm for 16 years, and Maxwell Sobieski, his new young, bright assistant.

The collection, which plays out in black anchored by shades of gray flannel, sanguine red, terra cotta, petrol, parrot and acid green, ink blue, cerise, and white, speaks to Ralph’s unwavering aesthetic and mastery of the skill. Most of the techniques Ralph employs (suspension, vibrations, pin tucking) he has previously developed.

14 Petrol Duchess Satin Tube Coat With Pintucked Torso, Embroidered Fringed Tassels, Matte Petrol Sequin Pants, Petrol Long Silk Chiffon Apron

The focus is on daywear. Pants, both narrow and wide-legged (sometimes with a sheer chiffon apron layered over them), outweigh the skirts. Boots are shown with almost everything.

10 Apricot Double-Faced Cashmere Pea Coat With Mid Gray Flannel Pant, Silver Fox Puff Balls Scarf

I always feel Ralph is best when he is ‘casual.’ Still, of course, Ralph’s idea of casual is a sable trim alabaster rain jacket, a petrol green silk rain parka trimmed in black fox shown over a sweatshirt and pants made of black silk georgette embroidered with discs, an apricot double double-faced cashmere pea coat with mid-gray flannel pants, silver fox “puff ball” scarf. All the coats are exceptional.

“Since 1980, I have been dependent, obsessed, and renewed working with the extraordinary fabrics from Taroni. I work with excitement and true honor each season of being able to communicate through these timeless fabrics.”

Ralph Rucci

18 Black Silk Crepe Turtleneck and Pant, Vreeland Apache Chestnut Micro Bugle Beaded Neck and Hip Scarves, Huge Black Tulle Stole with Shredded Duchess Satin Fringe

The evening portion of the collection is also “casual” as per the request of Ralph’s couture clients. This is exemplified by one of Ralph’s favorites, #18, an homage to Diana Vreeland. It’s the idea of pulling on two scarves and wearing them for the evening. “You enter a room filled with evening gowns, and you just walk in with bugle-beaded scarves, and you outshine everyone,” observes Ralph.

15 Black Corduroy Sheared Mink Cardigan with Handwritten Messages and Tunic over Black Silk Panne Velvet Mid-Calf Skirt

The big news is the usage of fur and fur trims: sable, chinchilla, silver fox, and black fox. One of Ralph’s favorite pieces is #15, a black corduroy sheared mink cardigan with a handwritten message worn over a tunic and a black silk panne velvet mid-calf skirt. Ralph emphasizes that all the furs he uses are cruelty-free and recycled.

(Nick) Pologeorgis, a “Furmark” certified brand, produces Ralph’s furs. Furmark is the global certification system that ensures animal welfare and environmental standards providing quality, assurance, and confidence for consumers while shopping and selecting coats. Other brands like Fendi, Dior, and Loro Piana are also included.

23 Tunic in Multi-Gray Greige Feathers And Tattered Chiffon Sash And Skirt in Pave Silver Micro Bugle Beads, Smokey Gray Crepe-Back Satin Pants

In addition to fur, Rucci loves exotic materials like feathers and porcupine quills, used in surprising, unusual combinations. In look #23, Ralph conceives of a deep v-neck tunic made of feathers in gray and greige, which has a tattered chiffon sash, and a skirt in pave silver micro bugle beads, worn over a smokey gray crepe back satin pant. “So twisted,” observes Ralph. Yes, twisted, but in the best way!

Another outfit, #24, mixes appliqued black lace, over-embroidered with black burnt ostrich feathers and natural porcupine quills. It’s shown with a black lace mantilla which Ralph feels strongly for. “I think women should wear them with jeans.”

33 Acid Green Silk Panne Velvet Tube With Micro Black Bugle Beaded Hems And Black Gauntlets

In Ralph’s hands, a little black dress is anything but simple. #17 is a little sheath dress in black satin-faced silk; the hem and short sleeves end in a tubed fringe that forms knots. It’s another one of Ralph’s favorites, which he calls “a perfect little nothing couture.”#33, an acid green silk panne tube dress with micro black bugle beaded hem and black gauntlets, is stunning in its simplicity.

31 White Gazaar Cy Twombly Caftan With Script And Scratched Unconscious Embroidery

The consummate artist himself, Ralph always includes a print inspired by Cy Twombly, and he recently discovered Pavel Tchelitchew, an openly gay Russian-born surrealist painter, set designer, and costume designer, who lived and died in Italy on July 31st, 1957, the day Ralph was born.

True to form, Ralph is never satisfied with his results, this time wishing he added more day dresses and raincoats. From my vantage point and from the point of view of artistry, the collection looks complete.

There’s a good reason why Ralph Rucci was the 1st designer to be honored with FIT’s Couture Council Artistry in Fashion Award.

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.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.