NEW YORK — Ronaldus Shamask, once known as fashion’s monk for his austere silhouettes, has been absent from the fashion-week merry-go-round, but after a decade, he wants to step back into the spotlight.
On Wednesday, Shamask will return to fashion week with a runway show at The Studio at Lincoln Center. It’s not a complete comeback to fashion. While he has been absent from the runway for 10 years, Shamask quietly continued to create four collections a year, with retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Stanley Korshak selling the line.
“Traditionally, I felt it was valid enough only to show every 10 years,” Shamask said, sitting in his West 38th Street studio. “I felt in the past that business was great anyway, and that doing a fashion show was a distraction. I always felt I would be better off to focus on my clientele and businesses. A show seemed redundant.”
“I feel you have to participate because the media has become so important when it comes to fashion,” Shamask offered. “Secondly, I feel I have a statement that is extremely valid.”
He came to that conclusion after Bergdorf’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager, Aja Passero, encouraged him to mull a runway return.
“She said to me, ‘This is really your moment. I see you everywhere. I see references to the Eighties, and the Nineties, and all the things you did paved the way for now,’” Shamask said.
At the time, he and then business partner Murray Moss became darlings of the fashion press, and Shamask became known for his devotion to minimalist silhouettes, raised seams and signature looks such as Apron and Lemon Peel dresses, as well as various techniques to use zippers for novel proportions. After a bitter trademark dispute in 1990, Shamask and Moss parted ways. The designer admits he doesn’t speak anymore to Moss, who has gone on to open a well-known design and furniture store in SoHo. “That was a different time and a very exciting time,” he said. “We had a great relationship, but then we just parted ways because of different interests. I hear he is doing well, though.”
Shamask’s creative philosophy has also evolved quite a bit since then.
“I was listening to an interview with Barbaralee Diamonstein from 1984,” he said. “God, I was a child. In those days, I felt that design should be a true form of art. I was influenced by Russian Constructivists and Charles James. It was a very self-indulgent moment. As I got older, I discovered a sense of humor in the clothing. I used to say, you can’t embellish anything because that is for stylists to hide sins with. But now I think embellishment can really add a wonderful element that is frivolous. Also, it really doesn’t matter from an intellectual point of view how brilliant a garment is. If it doesn’t look sexy or make you feel fantastic, then you failed.”
For spring, he took this mantra to heart. The lineup features a “Desert Zen Spa” group, he said, with fabrics dipped in gold hues; another group with neon touches, and clothes he referred to as “Piet Mondrian doing Superman.” His personal favorite is a pair a traditional Japanese warrior pants he turned into overalls with color touches inspired by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbarán — “so it’s East meets West for us.”
That’s also part of his new business philosophy. “We are reaching out to an international audience,” Shamask said. “The Asian market will be important for us. I also want to get back into men’s wear and accessories. We have a healthy business, but it’s time to grow it even more.”
Shamask is currently sold to more than 60 doors, and for 2011 the company projects wholesale sales of $7 million.
The runway isn’t the only show he is preparing for. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has approached him about an exhibit scheduled for next September. “They are giving me 2,000 square feet of space, and I promised I would do some past, present and future,” he said.
If Shamask is at all nervous about his increased profile, he doesn’t let on. “It’s fine, and I have a great team,” he said. “On the one hand, I want to show clothes that are wearable, and at the same time, I don’t want it to be a bore. I want it to be a statement.
Alberta Ferretti's "Rainbow Week" sweaters are back. The designer closed her #MFW show with a few day-of-the-week sweaters, which first debuted on the catwalk last January as part of the pre-fall 2017 collection. #wwdfashion (📷: @delphineachard)