Portrait of an Artist – Ralph Rucci

The acclaimed American couturier is as subtle as his minimally-marked name on the label. Likewise, his creations are deceptively simple. The truth is anything but.

By Anetta Nowosielska

A Renaissance man in the truest sense of the word, Ralph Rucci’s artistic career spans nearly three decades with plenty of accolades testifying to his remarkable talent. A couturier, painter, and soon to be furniture designer, who also holds a degree in philosophy, Rucci’s approach to his artistic endeavors have always been deeply rooted in the relentless pursuit of quality and its meticulous execution.

Consider his Chado Ralph Rucci fashion line, named after the Japanese tea ceremony and noted for its attention to detail, exactitude, sense of austere style, and expertise on the part of the practitioner. Loved by ladies-in-the-know (with Victoria Beckham, Martha Stewart, and Patti Smith as fans) and embraced by the media as fashion’s class act, Rucci became the first American couturier since Main Rousseau Bocher back in the 30s to be invited by the French Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show his collection in Paris, which he did for three consecutive seasons.

Rucci’s distinction is more than well merited. On the fashion scene plagued by flash-in-a-pan trends, this cerebral designer stands out for his uncompromising approach to the notion of luxury and an impeccable architecture of clothing. These values often led Rucci down the path less traveled, void of flashing lights and incorrigible antics, which are so rampant in the fashion world. He never relied on backers or investors to fuel his brand, nor played to the politics of  the industry. Rucci’s aesthetic vision has little to do with what’s expected and everything to do with what rings true. Some of his signature pieces such as burnt ostrich and white guinea feathers layered in between tons of tulle, spirals of black sable and sheer horsehair constructed into coats, and knitted mink/fox furs molded into tunics, might have never seen the light of day if the designer had something or someone other than himself to please.

“Rucci’s clothes are inspirational in every sense of the word,” says Robin Givhan, the former fashion editor for The Washington Post. “They ooze luxury from 100 paces; yet, they are not ostentatious. They look expensive because every seam is perfect; every button is exactly placed; every skirt has just the right lift. No dress of his would dare wrinkle.”

Regularly heralded a visual feat, it is little wonder that Rucci’s collections have successfully translated as objects of affection on the big screen, most recently in David Boatman’s documentary, “Ralph Rucci: A Designer and His House,” produced and narrated by Martha Stewart. The Sundance-premiered movie follows Rucci through the intricate design process during the creation of his Fall 2008 couture and Spring 2008 ready-to-wear collections.

Likewise, the recently published “Autobiography of a Fashion Designer: Ralph Rucci” takes a bold step into his world and is filled with images of Rucci’s favorite objects that influenced his life and work. This sumptuous new volume of Rucci-penned stream of thoughts, dotted with phenomenal photography, is a revealing portrait of a famously private man.

Rucci’s aesthetic has little to do with what’s expected and everything with what rings true to his vision.

“My publisher, Beth Daugherty, approached me about one and a half years ago with the concept,” Rucci reveals to Steve Kroeter at Designers & Books. “I thought that it was an exciting and marvelous inspirational project that would allow me to take another step forward in personal growth, and give my audience a glimpse into my very deep, personal territory. I really had no idea that it would turn into the psychological exposé that it became.” This year Rucci plans to appeal to a broader audience by developing a new collection that is, in his words, “not exactly ready-to-wear.” Something tells us that this departure from his usual will be no less spectacular.

Ralph Rucci’s collections are available locally at Saks Fifth Avenue in The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Town Center Mall in Boca Raton.

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