Probably the best designer you’ve never heard of was added to New York’s Fashion Avenue Walk of Fame today.
Ralph Rucci is not famous because he dresses the stars – he doesn’t believe in playing (or paying) the red carpet endorsement game. Ralph Rucci has no perfume line, no big financial backers and no huge advertising campaign. He doesn’t hang around to be seen and photographed at the Monaco Grand Prix, the Polo Circuit or the latest nightclubs. He has a degree in philosophy, is an accomplished artist, and does not have the usual Wikipedia page of a fashion designer. He named his company “Chado” after a Japanese tea ceremony, as it symbolizes respect, tranquility, and integrity.
That philosophy about sums up his work. Exactly 30 years after his first NY show, his technique and use of materials is still a source of wonder to those who see his clothing. He is considered America’s only living coutourier and was the the first American for 60 years, and only the second in history, to be invited to the French Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture . He has received many accolades, his fashion is in museum collections around the world and today he is the second Ralph (Mr Lauren being the other, of course) to have his own bronze disc on Fashion Avenue. This is the first time in three years a new person has been added to the Walk of Fame, and Ralph was selected from the 36 New York based designers after winning the votes cast by over 100 fashion industry luminaries. This is a designer who speaks his mind, without jealousy or bitterness when, as he put it in his acceptance speech, “It is no longer fashionable to stake a stand.” Ralph Rucci is doing and saying what others cannot or dare not say.
I first met Ralph at the Onishi Gallery where he was showing a collaboration with Hiroto Rakusho, The Gold Leaf Master from Kyoto. He was modest but friendly and he himself describes the evening as “a crazy night.” I had an idea for a collaboration with his clothing line, but he pointed out politely a little after that meeting that, “I do everything from source the fabrics, design the pattern and construct it all into a work of art.” There was no role for me, of course, but no admonishment either. What I did get was an instant feeling that here was somebody to admire, somebody with pure integrity. I know his fit model, she has been with him for years, and she told me most of Ralph’s workers have been with him for decades. He thanked everyone who helped his career and sat next to Joan Kaner, “the lady from Neimann Marcus who discovered me.” Ralph doesn’t say things for effect. Watch his interviews on Youtube and read about him and you will hear a person who speaks the truth about the industry and is someone every fashion student or writer should look up to and learn from. He is evidently very highly respected, even by those in the industry he sometimes criticizes.
I ask you all to look up Ralph Rucci online and enjoy the fashion and philosophy of an incredibly talented individual. Go to Neimann Marcus or Saks if you are in NY and take a look at why, in his introduction today, he was applauded when described as “the poet of fashion.” A designer who has never sold out, he was advised by a friend not to cry during his speech (he was close to it) but to understand that he alone really “owned” his award. Ralph Rucci is a man who understands “inspiration” in its true sense. He is somebody who, despite 30 years of hard work and struggle in the sometimes vapid and cannibalistic world of fashion, still embodies Chado’s values of respect, tranquility and integrity.
This morning, the fashion capital of the world voted to give him a top accolade. This afternoon, the rest of the world should understand why.