Monday, August 1, 2011

Chado Ralph Rucci

Collections:  With the current interest over the past couple of years in the work of Cristobal Balenciaga, I thought that it would be worthwhile to discuss his influence on a contemporary designer of note. One of the best kept secrets on the couturier scene is the American Ralph Rucci.  I discovered him in 2007 when I visited the museum at F.I.T. in Manhattan.  Prior to this show I was totally unaware of this man's work, as I am sure, many people are.  What made the venue particularly appropriate is that he studied here in the late 1970's and I am sure that the Fashion Institute was proud to showcase pieces from his collections.  Influenced by designers, Balenciaga, Madame Gres, Charles James and Halston, his clothes were both structured and deconstructed with an eye for exacting detail and craftsmanship.  An artist, his gowns had a collage like quality, encrusted with applied textures and painterly effects.  Like Charles James, his collections evolve over seasons and ignore trends and fads remaining true to his own visions and personal style.  From the influences of Balenciaga, he sculpts and molds cloth creating new forms and techniques, reinterpreting the female form and pushing himself to discover new solutions to tailoring problems.

Charles James, Clover Dress, 
Rucci fashion Sketch
Rucci gown
Rucci, 2003 haute couture collection
Detail of knotted bodice

While Charles James relied heavily on an under structure that limited the wearer's mobility, often making it impossible to sit down, Rucci relies on exacting cut and tailoring to allow the body movement while retaining the garments silhouette.  This manipulation of the fabric is what ties his work to that of Balenciaga. The knotted jersey dress above is indebted to the influence of Madame Gres and the use of bias cutting that she favored.  Rucci does not shy away from hides or furs either and incorporates both freely in his work.

Recollections:  "If Dior is the Watteau of dressmaking-full of nuances, chic, delicate and timely-then Balenciaga is fashion's Picasso.  For like that painter, underneath all of his experiments with the modern, Balenciaga has a deep respect for tradition and a pure classic line."  Cecil Beaton

If Beaton were alive today, he would have to re-address this quote and make mention of Chado Ralph Rucci.
Balenciaga Tweed Suit

In his tailored garments, Rucci has developed an open seam, garment inserts, and at times a mosaic of piecing, a technique that is highly distinctive to his work.  Often the garment appears to be made up of cloth "tesserae" linked together with threads or 'brides" as seen in traditional lace making or faggoting inserts.  These details create a surface embellishment and construction detail in one, giving the garment an architectural nature of its own.
Balenciaga, flamenco influences

Rucci-similar influences
These construction characteristics married to Asian influences in necklines and drapes free Rucci from being merely a copyist of Balenciaga to a designer in his own right.
Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball, "I Love Lucy"
Aspirations:  Would Ethel and Lucy aspire to a suit by Chado Ralph Rucci?  Most certainly.
Luckily a publication of his work exists.  "Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness"  ISBN 978-0-300-12278-7

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