By  on February 9, 2009

It all started with that fashionable confidante, the hairdresser.

Last fall, Ralph Rucci was having his hair cut at Frédéric Fekkai when his stylist, Hervé Merlino, began talking about his best friend, bag designer Leonello Borghi. Rucci and Borghi, who are fans of one another, met at Borghi’s studio, which happened to be plastered with photos from Rucci’s Chado Ralph Rucci runway shows. Pleased to find a like-minded accessories designer, Rucci promptly started working with Borghi on a line of bags for fall. “[Borghi is] so obsessed with different types of cuts and things that I work on, so it was really a [collaboration] that was meant to happen,” Rucci says.

Borghi, in fact, whipped up the sketches for the collection within 10 days of their meeting, inspired, he says, by the clean lines of Rucci’s dresses. “I think Ralph’s aesthetic and my know-how designing bags were merged,” says Borghi, “and everyone was surprised by how easily that happened.”

The seven-piece collection of architectural silhouettes, called Chado Ralph Rucci by Leonello Borghi, is luxed up with horsehair, metallic mesh and alligator. Developing the skins at a New Zealand tannery — including a matte deerskin — the designers hit upon shapes such as a weekender, hobo and an evening bag, all of which will be sold at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue (retail prices range from $500 to $3,000, though the box calf and horsehair weekender will go for a cool $7,000). “There’s a ceremonial kind of aspect to [the line], which for me is very Chado,” explains Borghi, who worked on Giorgio Armani’s inaugural accessories collection in 1999 before launching his own namesake line in 2001. To Borghi, the term “ceremonial” means that the bags are simple — no tricky hardware or flashy embellishments.

While Rucci has collaborated with labels such as Carlos Falchi and Lambertson Truex, this is the first accessories collection he’s wholesaling, and it will be a continuing venture, in part because of the similarity in the designers’ aesthetics. Rucci says the horsehair and mesh pieces in particular reflect the look of his fall show, which is exactly the kind of mirroring he and Borghi hope to maintain in future seasons. “The line has to have a relationship to the clothes, so that there’s a continuity for the retailer,” he says, noting that the collection’s commercial value — despite its high sticker price — is foremost on his mind. “We have to build in ways in which [retailers] can merchandise the bags for the most sales potential.”

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