American designer Ralph Rucci takes on the Paris catwalk, American style.
American designer Ralph Rucci reveals his life, loves and the inspiration behind the beautifully classical collections that have earned him an enviable place on the Paris haute couture calendar.
Ralph Rucci was born in Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love – where he graduated in literature and philosophy from Temple University. Soon afterward, he moved to New York in order to study design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. From his debut in 1981, he hasn't stopped showing his devotion to impeccable craftsmanship.
In 1994, Rucci created the label Chado, named after the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, whose concept of focusing the mind to appreciate beauty, nature and grace is masterfully revealed in his magnificent collections. Chado is truly the driving force behind his creative power.
Less than a decade later, in 2002, the designer was honored by the Chambre Syndicale of Paris, which invited him to participate in the haute couture fashion calendar – the first American since Mainbocher to receive such a prestigious tribute. Furthermore, Ralph Rucci is the only American to be formally invited to present on the haute couture calendar in Paris.
The first major exhibition of his work was held at the Kent State University Museum in 2005/2006. Seeing a large range of his creations there reinforces one's admiration for his rigor and gives a fuller understanding of his source. The clothes are sophisticated, sculptural, and the non-essential is stripped away, but at the same time, they are breathtaking, luxurious and peaceful. His fabrics are rich and his palette neutral.
Rucci creates his own textiles; gleaning inspiration from many sources, he is deeply influenced by historical cloths and his own artwork in watercolor and acrylic. His painstaking attention to every aspect of the fabrics is rewarded as they harmonize and sustain the creative construction of his clothes; a construction which is at the heart of his philosophy. Ralph Rucci is an idealist, a master craftsman, a perfectionist. He is a great talent among the world's great designers.
Ralph Rucci's definition of luxury:
It's the self-consciousness of using something luxurious in everyday life.
If Luxury were...
A gold watch, one from Cartier for example.
The end of my last show in Paris. I am so proud of it, and I think it's one of the best collections I have ever made.
Has fashion always been your vocation in life?
Yes, for sure. My parents, originally from Italy, would have preferred me to become a doctor, though.
How would you define your style?
Since it was launched in 1994, Chado (the name of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony symbolizing respect, tranquility and integrity) has been about impeccable craftsmanship. For example, I create new textiles with my European mills, culling inspiration from their personal archives and those of historical cloths. The result is a clothing collection that is sophisticated and sculptural, created in luxurious fabrics and in a neutral palette.
Are you a nostalgic person? Do you feel nostalgia for a certain grand elegance of the past?
Not really, but I can't forget incredible characters of the past like Diana Vreeland or the Baroness de Rothschild, who are the greatest examples of elegance!
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from my own artworks and from the Renaissance masters. I have the ability to synthesize and update my sources to create intricate and highly individualistic collections.
When you design a dress, do you think about the situation and the context of the woman?
Yes, of course. Most of my clients live surrounded by objects, mementos, souvenirs. They collect everything. So even if it's not easy, I have to imagine my creations moving in those complicated interiors, where simplicity is a must!
Where do you design your collections?
In three different places. My atelier, at home, and in a small studio where I used to paint.
What is your relationship with art?
It is vital. Just to give you an idea, my prints are mostly derived from my own watercolors and acrylic artworks.
Have you recently been involved in some particular artistic event?
Yes, I recently designed the costumes for the world premier of the ballet of Philip Glass's A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close in New York.
Who are your favorite artists?
Francis Bacon and Cy Twombly. Francis Bacon because of his capacity to analyze the human stream of consciousness and Cy Twombly because of his simplicity and peace.
Who are your fashion icons?
I stand on the shoulders of great designers such as Balenciaga, Vionnet, Grès and Chanel, as well as numerous other creators and artists.
What sort of music do you listen to?
Classical. My favorite composers are Mozart and Bach. I also enjoy Renaissance and '80s music too.
Ralph's favorite places in New York City
Gagosian Gallery Chinese Porcelain Company
555 W. 24th Street 475 Park Avenue
212 741 1111 212 838 7744
Charlotte Moss Buccellati
20 E. 63rd Street 46 E. 57th Street
212 308 3888 212 308 2900
Rizzoli Potterton Books
31 W. 57th Street 979 Third Avenue
212 759 2424 212 644 2292
981 Madison Avenue
212 772 8787
La Grenouille Il Cantinori
3 E. 52nd Street 32 E. 10th Street
212 752 1495 212 673 6044
Sistina Four Seasons Grill
1555 Second Avenue 99 E. 52nd Street
212 861 7660 212 754 9494
121 Hudson Street
212 965 9500
554 W. 28th Street
212 473 1866