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FIT Couture Council

For Ralph Rucci, a designer who has spent the past 25 years unceremoniously honing his craft, it was fitting that scores of his admirers were on hand Thursday when he received the first Artistry of Fashion Award from The Museum at FIT's Couture Council.

NEW YORK — For Ralph Rucci, a designer who has spent the past 25 years unceremoniously honing his craft, it was fitting that scores of his admirers were on hand Thursday when he received the first Artistry of Fashion Award from The Museum at FIT’s Couture Council.

James Galanos, Ron Frasch, Linda Fargo, Joan Kaner and John Pomerantz were among the industry insiders at a luncheon honoring Rucci at Brasserie 8 1/2. Aside from the mannequins Fargo styled with pieces from the designer’s fall collection, several guests including luncheon chair Charlotte Moss, Amy Fine Collins and Kaner wore some of Rucci’s creations. As guests found their seats, The Museum at FIT’s director, Valerie Steele, said, “The dresses look so wonderful — it’s really like a fashion show.”

In 2002, Rucci became the first American designer since Mainbocher to be invited by Paris’ Chambre Syndicale to show as part of the haute couture. But during her remarks, Steele noted that Rucci was being honored for his extensive body of work, not for that European honor. To that end, The Museum at FIT will stage “Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness” from Jan. 13 to April 14.

Clearly humbled by the attention, Rucci singled out about a dozen employees and supporters by name. As for his outlook, he said: “What I do has to do with the evolution of the woman herself and her spirit. It doesn’t have anything to do with trend.”

He added, “I hope we can always create things that allow you to suspend your vision of fashion.”

Afterward, Kaner recalled how a decade ago she did everything she could to get people to look at Rucci’s work. Despite their resistance to seeing a new designer, “once they did come and saw the clothes, they were very impressed,” she said. “This is not a job for him. It is his life’s work.”

Galanos, who became friends with Rucci after a chance meeting at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, said, “He makes the most beautiful clothes in the world. He’s an artist — he’s not just a fashion designer.”