Fashion is not only happening on the runways of Paris. Over the weekend, Ralph Rucci unveiled his spring/summer 2023 haute couture collection. Once again, Rucci’s production takes the form of a lookbook.
Each of the 33 outfits is represented by an image of Ralph’s working sketch on the left, enhanced by Bil Donovan’s superb watercolor illustrations on the right. Rucci hails Donovan as “the greatest living illustrator along with David Downton.” The two have worked together many times before, and this is their third analogous collaboration.
Ralph planned to show during Paris Fashion Week in January, but after Covid restrictions were lifted, you had to have at least 25 looks to be listed on the calendar as a member or invited guest. While Ralph was disappointed that he could not do that, he decided to show the way he wanted to — directly to the client.
“The importance of this collection is to highlight the necessity of couture as representational of what handwork and new techniques are. It’s not about being overly decorative but rather, the extraordinary work an artisan can do.”Ralph Rucci
This collection is true to Ralph’s highly consistent vision. All the signatures that define the couturier’s meticulous, ever-evolving style (the knotting, braiding, suspension cutouts, etc.) the emphasis on weightlessness (the true definition of couture) are apparent in his latest work, and then some. This season, Ralph has reintroduced another all-time favorite: faggotting which Ralph feels strongly about because it’s cool in the summer.
Ralph is wholly dedicated to his chosen métier and always seeks progress and perfection, pointing to the opening look. It is a seemingly plain black sleeveless sheath, but they take the fabric and, on a template, make the art of braiding. The fabric is cleaned on the top and bottom through double-faced wool, and then pieces are hand braided and attached to themselves, so it’s literally a basket with dimension.
Then, nude chiffon linings are dropped into the design, allowing you to see through it. “What is it? A plain jeweled neck sheath to wear for the rest of your life,” surmises Ralph.
Look #22, a slim black bias cut dress in Taroni’s black crepe back satin, has spiraling seams and floats over layers of the most exquisite chestnut satin-faced chiffon georgette. The sleeves become batwing-like flying saucers.
Ralph proudly states that the dress can fit from a size 2 to a size 22 by simply adjusting the decollete. It is a technique that Ralph has envisioned for years, and he was finally able to see it come to fruition.
“The point of this collection is its emphasis on day clothes with great impact! At these prices, couture must last in perpetuity!”Ralph Rucci
We always expect to see elegant eveningwear and sensational clothes for high-profile events on a Rucci collection, and this season is no exception. Ralph’s inventive use of pearl embroidery, beaded fringe, paillettes, and micro bugle beads, along with tulle, silk chiffon, silk braiding, satin Duchess, and taffeta, is extraordinary.
But I always feel Ralph is at his best when he simplifies. What really stands out for me is the daywear. In fact, out of 33 looks, half is daywear, and Rucci is wisely emphasizing this point.
When I tell Ralph that one of my favorite pieces is the tan Ultrasuede safari jacket with braided horsehair belt that looks like raffia, Ralph notes, “it’s the look that inside here, we’re all freaking out about.” FYI, Halston’s influence, along with Cristobal Balenciaga and James Galanos, is never far away.
Ralph shows it with an “easy little fluted skirt for daytime.” The skirt is above the knee, but when a client comes in, it can be adjusted accordingly or designed with a pant.
Look #14, the orange vermilion double-face wool coat with pockets and tulle insets, is another standout, shown over white mohair. Look # 6, a black mohair pantsuit with elliptical sleeves, is perfect for someone who loves couture but wants to stand out quietly, observes Ralph. Look #8, a black patent safari jacket shown with narrow black mohair pants, and a chiffon apron, has the look of now.
Ralph always includes a raincoat or two in his collections. Look #9, a hooded trapunto stitched raincoat with black, coral, and brown, looks great and strikes the right cord. Coats are essential here as they are elsewhere.
Ralph describes Look #15, a black coat ensemble, as “killer!” The top of the coat is black wool and silk, and the bottom is made of tulle with vibrations embroidery. It is shown with high-waisted pants in a nun’s veiling with faggotting.
Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of black, a color Ralph loves. There is also blush, shades of coral and Chinese cinnabar, and shades of white, ivory, beige, taupe, and brown.
When I mention to Ralph that brown is the “New Black,” Rucci, who has always loved brown, even as an accent, concurs and describes Look # 24, which he says everyone loves.
It’s an ankle-length dress made of brown tulle completely pavéd with hanging fringe in micro silver bugle beads and paillettes. At the hip, there’s a ribbon in petrol-green Duchess satin. Very few have such a sophisticated sense of color. This is a definitive Rucci design.
Rucci’s introduction of the line at this time, after Haute Couture Week in January and in the middle of the ready to wear shows in Paris, is symbolic in more ways than one. There is a continuing blurring of the lines between what is haute couture and what is ready-to-wear, especially where price is concerned. As Ralph noted, prices of ready-to-wear designs by Marc Jacobs, Chanel, etc., are in the $25,000-$30,000 range.
Ralph’s haute couture prices begin at $25,000. Still, with this, you are getting amazingly skilled handwork limited to only a few artisans and the benefit of having fittings, which enable you to make the clothes to your exact specifications. Ralph says that prices have not been a deterrent for his customers.
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