After showing his ready-to-wear and haute couture in Paris for the last two seasons, Ralph Rucci returned home to a familiar time and place: the 6 pm time slot on Friday evening, officially closing New York Fashion Week. And how fitting, because he is undeniably in a class by himself (in fact, he was chosen as the Mercedes Benz featured designer for New York Fashion Week). While RR has traditionally shown ready-to-wear and couture back to back, this time, he opted only for the former; yet in his hands, given the amazing level of technical mastery, architecturally complex construction methods, workmanship, painstaking attention to detail, and artistic expression, the results were the same.
Ralph Rucci is highly consistent and does not change for change’s sake…or because of pressure from the outside but rather pressure from within: to perfect, hone in, and fine tune his craft. It’s all about continuity, and evolving from one season to the next, and this time, the emphasis was on experimentation with texture (sometimes to a 3-D effect), transparency, and the use of sheer fabrics (horsehair and organza were inset into the seams, and silk tulle was used as a base throughout). Sheer insets decorated a black jersey tube dress, a mesh shell was shown with wide black hopsack gazar trousers, and a black wool crepe cutwork jacket was shown over a black silk tulle full skirt.
Ralph seems to be taken with the idea of creating back interest thereby adding the element of surprise. This was illustrated by a black mohair ‘smoking’ which looked chicly sedate from the front, but was anything but when you saw that back of the jacket was transparent. Along those same lines, a floor length white silk crepe tube with a self braided belt looked elegant and serene until you happened to notice (and it would be hard not to) the fringed silver mylar cascading down the entire back (how would one actually sit in that?) Speaking of which, silver mylar was another recurring theme, and showed up for day as a duo of raincoats (one knee length and fitted; the other ¾ length and shown over white trousers). Paillettes may be used on other runways, but they never look the same in Ralph’s hands. Geometry has always figured into the Rucci oeuvre, and this season, he took the math to a new creative level, decorating black, white, and light taupe silk crepe dresses with geometric panels comprised of paillettes.
Black paillettes were transformed into an evening ‘tailleur’ (comprised of a cardigan jacket, floor length skirt and sheer black top); the use of matte paillettes had astounding results when used on fishnet, resulting in a ‘simple’, long sleeved form fitting gown; and let’s face it, who else but Ralph could use matte gold paillettes and beige puckered silk chiffon to create a soft skirt suit with the effect of tattered tweed? Madame Chanel would have undoubtedly approved.
And by the way, this couldn’t be timelier, since the highly anticipated three hour movie, ‘Coco Chanel’ starring Shirley MacLaine, airs tonight on the Lifetime channel.
Christian Francis Roth: “Too Cool for School”
Spring 2009 signifies the return of fashion’s boy wonder of the early nineties, Christian Francis Roth. Apparently, Francis (as the new label is known), doesn’t “give a damn about his bad reputation” as Joan Jett’s rebellious tune pumped through the speakers at the start of his presentation yesterday. Held in St. Patrick’s Youth Center downtown, one quickly sensed that Roth’s “comeback collection” drew inspiration from NYC school kids; i.e. gossip girls, preppies, downtown hipsters and the like. Forty ensembles were broken up into groups (or “cliques” if you will), and girls stood in a posse by the entranceway of the space (which seemed to be a gym) arms folded, hands on hips, exuding aloof attitude and lack of concern.
The first “clique” to strut their stuff, clad in a fusion of madras patchwork paired with Navy, looked like a pack of misbehaving Catholic school girls. This group was comprised of shrunken blazers, tiny shorts, a sexy little vest baring a lot of skin, and an adorable pleated mini skirt embroidered with faux safety pin closures. Brightly color blocked tank dresses and T-shirt dresses in jersey bounced through the gym next, followed by a nautical flag printed sundress, cotton Bermudas and pique polo dresses, one of which (cleverly named the “Accost”) was branded with an oversize embroidery on the left chest.
Succeeding the nautical theme, girls donned a gallery of artwork displaying charmeuse dresses with spray painted and appliquéd graffiti, and an adorable pleated baby doll dress printed with the NYC subway map. The final clump of ensembles channeled the elite upper crust and its black tie affair charm. Dresses in grey cire cotton and black taffeta were detailed with ruffled trim, a white tuxedo bib and bow ties. Additional bow ties were directly inked onto the models necks forming perfect little triangles joined oppositely at a point. One girl wore a black top hat with a blonde hair extension tied around acting as the band. Another wore a black, shiny streamer pom-pom hat (a cute way to add some school spirit).
Roth’s humor and creativity were ever present and I loved the way he previewed his collection in terms of carrying out the theme. It really felt as if the models were a bunch of school girls hanging out after class, while we happened to be privy to a little glimpse of their world. Though humor was used throughout, the pieces weren’t all quirky. Pants, shorts, skirts, vests and jackets were tailored beautifully and fit well, preventing them from appearing too “tween.” Classic styles such as a denim trench and denim shirt dress were livened up with red topstitching, and a short army green cotton jacket sported an elastic cinched waist in back, along with orange topstitching. The bias cut, chevron dress was very grown up, but Roth kept it young by fitting it tight to the body and hacking off one arm, creating an asymmetrical look (another ‘trend’ that seems to be in the air for Spring ’09).
After a fairly long hiatus from designing his own label, Francis’ point of view remains intact. His style is (and was) young, flirty and playful. The clothes are not for the demure, the self conscious, or the uptight. Rather, they cater to the bold, confident woman (young woman), who craves attention and strives to be individual. Welcome back Francis, school’s in session.