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Behind the Scenes at Ralph Rucci

Film shows preparation of collections.

In a new documentary, Ralph Rucci draws back the curtains of his close-knit atelier to zoom in on the complex workmanship and hive of activity that led up to his couture show in Paris last fall.

This story first appeared in the September 18, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Director David Boatman’s “Ralph Rucci: A Designer and His House” also gives a behind-the-scenes view of how the designer developed the spring 2008 ready-to-wear and fall 2008 couture collections for his Chado Ralph Rucci label. Involved as that was — one ensemble required 140 meters of fabric and 1,000 hours of work — the film reveals the designer’s more offhanded side.

One on-camera moment captures Rucci showing off a pair of pants embroidered with lettering true to his handwriting and adds, “Trust me, some of these messages are very perverse because you have to make life interesting.”

In another, Rucci is seen checking with an assistant that “they can’t say vulture” to describe a banded silk tulle dress’ feathery material even though that is in fact what it is. Even more amusing is his follow-up comment: “There are women who actually buy these clothes. We don’t make couture to sell nail polish. These don’t go to a red carpet, I am proud to say. They go to women’s homes.”

The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn attests to that in the film, saying, “Ralph was making all these great clothes and he wasn’t getting a lot of press attention. I thought that was a little strange because he was selling a lot of clothes.”

In other scenes, James Galanos, Bergdorf Goodman’s Jim Gold, Fédération Française de la Couture’s Didier Grumbach and others also sing his praises. After becoming the first American designer to show his own signature collection in the Paris couture, in 2002, since Mainbocher in 1930, Rucci made a repeat performance last year. Unlike Mainbocher who set up a business in Paris prior to showing, Rucci was the only American to have been invited to show during couture.

Presented by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the film airs Monday on the Sundance Channel. Stewart, a friend and fixture at his runway shows, joined Rucci’s muse Coco Mitchell, Amy Fine Collins, J. Alexander of “America’s Next Top Model” and other Rucci admirers at a screening Tuesday at the Museum of Modern Art. Afterward, Rucci said, “Watching it is exhausting almost because we work so intensely. I am also proud to see that it shows how we really are a family in the house.”

For its fashion week lineup, Sundance will also be showing films about Yves Saint Laurent, Florence Broadhurst and Marc Jacobs, among others.