Trellis dress, haute couture collection, fall 2004

Ralph Rucci

Location: New York, New York
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“Invisible luxury” best describes the creations of fashion designer Ralph Rucci. Rucci, who studied philosophy and literature before focusing on fashion, opened his business in 1994 and decided to call it Chado, after the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. He chose this name because it embodies respect, tranquility, grace, and integrity—qualities he wishes to evoke through his fashion designs.

In 2002, France’s prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited Rucci to show his haute-couture collection in Paris; he was the first American to earn this honor since Mainbocher in the 1930s. Rucci has always concentrated on luxurious womenswear, and his work on one-of-a-kind, lavishly detailed garments serves as a laboratory where he tests ideas and techniques that cross over into his ready-to-wear line. Eschewing the theatrical spectacles and bells and whistles of other haute-couture designers, Rucci focuses instead on the quiet and steady development of his collections, the strength of which lies in their impeccable craftsmanship, luxurious fabrics, and subtle embellishments.

In Rucci’s office, photographs, drawings, and an assortment of beautiful objects provide clues to the things that fuel his imagination: a close-up of a woven Japanese basket; Irving Penn’s famous photograph of a highly abstracted wedding gown by Balenciaga; paintings by Twombly, Bacon, and Gottlieb. He describes himself as a sponge, soaking up rich references that inspire the textures, forms, and ideals he develops as a conceptual basis for each collection.

Together with a dedicated staff, Rucci produces all of his designs in his New York atelier, giving couture-level attention to every garment. The cut and construction of Rucci’s clothes are architectural, and almost every garment features complex seaming, both inside and out. Some garments take 300 hours to make, others as many as six months; and often the most intricate and involved workmanship is on the inside of a garment, as in an evening skirt that has a box pleated ruffle on the inside to hold the shape. This intensive labor is virtually invisible in his gowns and dresses, which paradoxically appear simple and pure.