NEW YORK — Friends and admirers of Ralph Rucci met Thursday night at Charlotte Moss’ Upper East Side town house to toast his winning the first Couture Council Award to be presented by the Couture Council of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Linda Fargo, Valerie Steele, Glenda Bailey, Iris Apfel, Martha Stewart, Maggie Norris and FIT’s president, Joyce Brown, were among the well-wishers mingling in Moss’ garden. Steele, Apfel and Stewart pledged their allegiance to Rucci by wearing his creations. Moss, a Couture Council member, said she started buying his clothes several years ago. The construction of the clothes, his many historical references and his inspiration impressed her. “The inside looks as good as the outside,” she said. “No one does this in America, and he’s a wonderful human being — so definite and so passionate about everything.”

Rucci has been designing his ready-to-wear for 25 years, but in 2002, he gained significant attention when he became the first American designer since Mainbocher in the Thirties to show his work at the haute couture in Paris. Rucci’s dedication to high standards of fashion artistry appealed to the advisory committee that selected him, said Steele, a Couture Council member and director of the Museum at FIT.

“We wanted to honor someone who is contributing to the artistry of fashion. The important thing to focus on is the importance of the creativity and craftsmanship. That is what will move fashion forward,” Steele said. “Ralph is a perfect example of someone who has dedicated his whole life to his artistry. That can be seen in his innovative techniques and his use of materials.”

The Couture Council will honor Rucci at an Oct. 17 luncheon, and a major exhibition of his work will go up at the Museum at FIT around mid-January, accompanied by a catalogue of his work by Yale University Press.

Accessories designer Mish Tworkowski created the award and Ruben Toledo is working with Steele on a graphic design for the event.

This fall’s luncheon will benefit the museum; CIT, a consumer and commercial financial company, is sponsoring the Couture Council award. Moss will chair the luncheon, along with Elizabeth Peek, Yaz Hernandez and Sara Wolfe.

This story first appeared in the May 8, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.