Ralph & Russo: Couture with an '80s beat
There is life outside of Paris even for haute couture. Traditionally the métier was confined to the French capital, with just one acknowledged sub-division called Alta Moda in Rome, and latterly Milan.
Many foreign-based designers have brought acclaimed collections to the Paris couture season over the decades, but few of them can boast as professional an atelier as Ralph & Russo. With 400 staff in Chelsea, they boast probably the largest couture atelier outside of Paris.
This duo composed of Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo have been bringing their collections to Paris for the past half-decade, but their show on Monday on the rue Cambon was their most impressive to date.
The sheer quality and finish of the clothes meant that they are truly couture – from the opening white double breasted coat-dresses, slashed at one side, the better to show lots of leg; to the stunning white tulle mini cocktail whose geometric patterns were interlaced with white velvet, chunks of tulle and endless lacquered feathers.
Ralph & Russo were at their best when their clients are being bold – like the strapless tulle gown embellished with metallic paillettes. All very seductive throughout. The whole collection referenced Jacqueline de Ribes, the French aristocratic designer noted for her high-octane glamour, and love of wrapping herself in a big-volume scarf.
“Clothes like good architecture have to respond to the rhythm of life. You can’t be elegant without being graceful and you can’t be graceful if you are not at ease,” wrote de Ribes, words that summed up this collection.
Their stylist, veteran fashion editor Elizabeth Saltzman, injected some 80s oomph into the collection, which helped bring focus.
“We wanted to focus of the early '80s. I wanted more strength, more power and more sexy femininity,” said Tamara, expressing those virtues in her own outfit –a shocking pink gown.
Ralph & Russo are very much a house on a roll. They opened a flagship in Dubai mall this past month, and have ten more stores in the pipeline including Qatar and beside Barneys on the Gold Coast of fashion retailing upper Madison Avenue. Their clothes can be ostentatious, but they know their audience, and their brash optimism of their fashion lures in the truly wealthy. Len Blavatnik, the Russian billionaire and philanthropist who owns Warner Brothers, brought his daughter to shop at this Ralph & Russo couture show, while Michael Dell, technology billionaire, arrived with wife and daughter.
Post-show, everyone feted Tamara and Michael’s success in the Pavillon Dauphine, with the best party of the season, climaxed by a half-hour multi-song set by R&B singer Kelis.
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