Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills hosted New York designer Ralph Rucci for a brunch and informal fashion show on Thursday, where he talked through pieces from the fall collection. It’s such a treat to hear Rucci speak about his hyper-luxurious clothes. (Yes, that is a $24,000 price tag.) Because they are so incredibly detailed, you have to hear it to believe it.
Take for example, the twinset with freshwater pearl embroidery in the pattern of a magnified fingerprint. Or the bushy red Mongolian lamb coat inspired by the après-ski style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, one of the original founders of Vail, who was a designer in the 1940s and 50s and is the subject of an exhibition on view now at the Phoenix Art Museum. Underneath the coat? A red jersey day dress with a lattice-work effect “drawn from Japanese basketry or the art of Sol LeWitt,” explained the designer, who is also a fine artist and has the distinction of being the only American to be invited to show at the Haute Couture in Paris.
“I’m working on the premise that none of you, absolutely none of you, need anything,” he said before the first model came out. And from the look of the diamonds and furs (on a 94-degree day), worn by these ladies-who-brunch, he’s right. His challenge is to create "desire and subliminal interest," he said. “Clothes have to have a quiet crash.”
In his 30-minute talk, Rucci detailed his inspiration, from Mainbocher to black holes in the universe, Tibetan prayer coats to the interior decorator Renzo Mongiardino.
A red vinyl coat was quilted to look like "pulled ponytails from the Edo period of the Samurai," he said of the feminine-meets-fetish style. “I think it’s a great way to look when it’s raining and you want to wear a vinyl coat.” Also in red, his signature “Dalai Lama” silhouette, a floor-length coat and trousers ensemble that can be worn “to restaurants, at home entertaining or to major balls when everyone else is in taffeta, trains and beading," he said. "Talk about a quiet crash.”
A feathered fox fur pullover was as weightless as a cotton sweater, because the fur was sewn on chiffon. A black double-face wool crepe jacket was decorated with concentric-shaped silk tulle seams in the shape of a chakra. And can you imagine anything more decadent than a white Ultrasuede shirtwaist dress? (Red wine, strictly off-limits.) The piece was an homage to the Ultrasuede king Halston, who gave Rucci his start in fashion.
It's tempting to describe Rucci's clothes as "elegant." Don’t.
“'Elegant’ is a word that has no meaning for an audience under 40. It’s almost a black, negative word,” said Rucci, who is also a painter.
"Young" and "old" are also no-nos. "Those words polarize the importance of great design," he said with gusto.
And you can forget "modern." “Modern is for the trends you see in magazines to sell [ad] pages."
So what to say? When speaking about his clothes, Rucci would prefer you use words like "future" and "sex appeal."
But the guest to my left settled on something far better: art.
-- Booth Moore
Photos: Ralph Rucci's Chado Ralph Rucci event at Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills. Above, the designer, below, a model in one of his fall designs. Credit: John Sciulli