Calm in the chaos
Zen master: Ralph Rucci provides a moment of calm at fashion week
At this point of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, waiting in long lines, dealing with haughty doorkeepers and racing from show to show leaves everyone frazzled. So when I got to the the Marchesa presentation Wednesday afternoon and the line didn't move for 15 minutes (even though Precious actress Gabourey Sidibe and Elle magazine editors were instantly whisked inside), I had enough and hopped a cab to SoHo, where I discovered the true meaning of fashion week.
It happened in designer Ralph Rucci's showroom.
A few weeks ago Rucci canceled his planned Chado Ralph Rucci fashion week runway show, even after the invitations had been mailed out, because a key staffer went on an extended medical leave. Instead, the designer decided to show his spring 2011 collection to a select group of fashion editors. As a model came out, he described the outfit, what it was made of, and explained his design process.
"It's fun," he said. "I get to look at the clothes constantly and think of new things."
Rucci puts a lot of care into his designs — and it shows. He doesn't like to use the word "couture" because he believes the word intimidates customers, but his creations are a cut above anything else shown during fashion week. Everything is just exquisite.
He says it took him years to perfect a process of creating an effortless shape of a garment by using weightless bands of horsehair. For one gown, he shreds silk tulle and embroiders it, creating hand-stitched blocks. "You get the volume without the weight," he explained.
For this season, Rucci was inspired by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro's spheres as well as the designer's fascination with soundwave patterns, which show up on the hem or the midriff of a dress. He also worked with cotton fabric — "I'm trying to convince buyers it's OK to be wrinkled" — and experimented with taffeta, creating a kicky three-tiered dress. And he included a luxe jump suit because his customer continues to clamour for it.
I imagine this must have been what it was like before fashion became so chaotic. Buyers and customers dropped by a showroom and examined the garments up-close, felt the material and asked questions.
It all seemed so civilized.
And then I had to leave. It was time for another show.