In Palm Springs real estate, it’s all about location. In Ralph Rucci’s new collection, which debuted to a standing ovation on the final night of Fashion Week El Paseo, it’s all about the fabrics: the silks, the wool crepe, the leather and fur, even a silky ephemeral cape that floats off a model’s shoulder like a bridal veil and printed with the most delicate and original design.
Rucci’s collection – and each individual look -- embodies an artistic vision: a cut out dress that reveals just slivers of skin with a spider-webbed back; or cutouts that follow the line of the shoulder and swoop of the scapula elevate the concept of power suit to a whole new level. Even the models, wearing identical tight buns, look empowered in his designs. You could practically feel how luxurious a bright pink silk kaftan felt flowing just above bare feet. I imagined wearable butter.
Unlike other designers who favor top-of-the-leg hemlines and open backs and plunge necklines, often in the same dress, Rucci understands that the true meaning of sexy is about a deliberate hide and reveal, as well as a deep appreciation for the structure of a woman’s body, which each look is designed to follow and enhance. Most of Rucci’s dresses fall just above the knee or to the floor. You’ll never see a woman tugging down the hemline of a Rucci dress to avoid a wardrobe malfunction. In fact his clothes are designed to function beautifully, even perfectly, and his artistry is what has made him both celebrated and beloved. A black dress with an illusion neckline features a back detail that traces a woman’s spine. Another dress carved out at the waist has a slight waist and illusion back – variations on the same theme, but showing just the right amount of skin that is less about suggesting what might lie beneath and more about “this is what I choose to show.” A suit with a boxy texture and shape has cuts in the fabric that are only visible as the model moves makes a striking statement: these clothes are meant to be embodied by a woman, and the grace and beauty of the designs are activated only as she moves.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ARIANA BINDMAN
PHOTOGRAPH BY GARY BINDMAN
Although many of Rucci’s looks are red carpet ready – the final dress of the night featured a crocodile bodice and a full length black layered skirt that moved like slow-moving wingbeats – he also showed tunics over black leather leggings, which is an almost universally accessible look, as well as a slouchy, deliberately oversized lounge suit made of the finest, softest black velvet that is the opposite of your grandmother’s polyester easy pants. A sheer but sparkling white tunic makes the perfect wedding dress for the glamorous yet minimalist bride. A column black sequined gown with a cape that spreads like wings as the model turns at the top of the runway is reimagined as a skirt and jacket combination that you just might be able to pull off at work, especially if you’re the #girlboss.
Rucci also debuted dresses printed with his original designs, swoops of brown and beige and rust, all perfectly placed along the fabric, a moveable painting and a feast of design and color. A brown dress with a perfect drape and a fringe detail along the hem and a black, sheer paneled dress with feathers trapped and floating inside feel other worldly.
The models, walking to music that felt ethereal with a touch of mournfulness, didn’t just walk the runway, they practically flew. The crowd was largely silent, a rare event given that the cocktail hour had just ended.
Breaking with his usual protocol, Rucci did a Q and A with the audience after the show. In response to the question, “So is black the new black?” Rucci responded, “It has never not been.” True, and although this designer clearly expresses most powerfully in the color black, his latest stunning collection represents a new step in a long career. In other words, Rucci, whose fashion career has weathered its fair share of turbulence, is taking flight once more.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ARIANA BINDMAN
VIDEO: Watch the complete Ralph Rucci collection come down the runway, and his Q&A afterward.