Seventeen years after Ralph Rucci became the first American designer since Mainbocher to show a couture collection in Paris, he is about to return to that stage this summer.
The designer has been approved, but he has not yet been awarded a date or time on the couture calendar, which runs June 29 through July 4. In a phone interview Thursday, Rucci said he will be happy with whatever fate is decided upon since he sees it as his destiny.
“It’s really quite extraordinary. I’m excited. It’s a new step in life,” Rucci said. “I need to do this because there is very little, if any, of an American couture left, and you must go there.”
Five years ago, the designer officially left his own company and now designs clothes under the RR331 label. His return to the European stage will be far from more of the same. “I’m not going to be bringing what I’ve already done in the couture — beading and feathers and all of that. I’m getting away from an element of decoration. I’m just bringing cut, a monastic quality, a reduction of decoration and more implementation of intensity, of drape — technique that the couture was founded on.”
Rucci is also planning on a great return to daytime clothes. “Do we really want to see one more satin dress as big as this room?” he asked, referring to the alternative.
The abbreviated name of his label underlines the designer’s new pared-down approach. Referring to his experience designing for his private clients over the past few years, Rucci said, “It’s rare that they come to you for an elaborate evening dress. Women of couture really want great double-faced cashmere coats, or embroidery that is so subtle, or a mosaic of leather,” he said.
What he hears more often than anything else in terms of requests is that clients prefer to select a painting from Rucci, who is also an artist, that he then will have screen-printed on the cloth, whether that be double-faced wool or silk “to make the garment look like a painting, but keep it subtle — nothing wild.” Rucci added that raincoats are popular with his clients.
Rucci declined to discuss the specifics, regarding his inability to use his name for business purposes. He also would not identify the current owners.
As reported in 2012, Nancy and Howard Marks made a capital investment in Rucci’s business through their holding company Deia LLC. In 2013, the Chado Ralph Rucci label dropped “Chado” in order to be known as Ralph Rucci. The following year the company’s namesake exited Ralph Rucci LLC and the collection was shuttered. Deia owns the multibrand showroom Goods and Services, as well as the women’s ready-to-wear label Sies Marjan.
For his return to couture, the designer will introduce “a very hidden way of using fur delicately. It’s not in-your-face or a mixture of decoration.” That will be achieved with his 22-year collaborator for fur, Nick Pologeorgis.
While artists such as Cy Twombly are a continual source of inspiration for Rucci, he has been drawn to Japanese basketry as of late, more specifically the look of an unfinished basket and how the reeds go off in different directions can be translated into similar silhouettes. In terms of the palette, Rucci said it will be a mixture of Renaissance on top of Renaissance — as in Italian, French and the Netherlands Renaissance. He is also taking references of Renaissance jewelry and silhouettes, but subdued.
The designer is creating gowns for legends of the ballroom community and fashion runways who will join in a show for “L’Hommage…A Night of Celebration, Unity and Love” on May 11 at Judson Memorial Church in New York. The runway show and vogueing competition will be part of a cocktail party event that will benefit the LGBTQ community. Rucci said that endeavor has influenced what he is about to start with couture. The transsexual women are known in this country and across the world for being dressed in dazzling ideas like beads and feathers and duh, duh, duh, da. What I wanted to do was to take that away especially with two of them who are quite renowned now. I used heavy matte black, crepe bias spiraling seams for the shadow and the drape. I said, ‘This is a rediscovery of what I first started.’ My first collection in 1980 was entirely about that. In a way, I’m going back to my very first attempt in fashion and it feels right, especially now with couture looking so decorative.”
As for whether a solution could be reached that would allow him to use his name again, Rucci said, “It would be wonderful if it were resolvable. What I would be much more happy with would be the return of my archives. Those are my children and that is a big psychological difficulty for me not having my clothes, the special things that I worked so closely on.”