In the Studio with Ralph Rucci
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On the day of Philadelphia Style’s photo shoot and interview with Ralph Rucci, no one was fawning over the heaps of gorgeous dresses dotting his New York City atelier or even the acclaimed couture designer, for that matter. All talk centered on Twombly, Rucci’s four-year-old English bulldog, who, having been at the studio the previous day during our walk-through, was noticeably absent for being under the weather. Rucci, it seems, is unsurprised.
“Twombly comes here every day,” says Rucci, who named him after American artist Cy Twombly. “He adores everyone.” He goes on to talk about his companion’s somewhat superstar status: three appearances on The Martha Stewart Show (the media powerhouse is a longtime fan of Rucci’s clothing), a story in Vogue by André Leon Talley and even a New York Times article about experimental eye surgery Twombly underwent as a puppy.
Hermès leashes and Elsa Peretti rock-crystal water bowls are just some of the gifts he has received. And every day, after Rucci is dropped off at the gym for his morning workout, Twombly is taken by car service to the office, where he waits for his master to return. “I work to support the life of Twombly,” says Rucci, feigning exasperation.
As for the designer, 2011 is shaping up to be an exciting time for the 53-year-old South Philadelphia native, who remains one of only two American designers ever invited to show at Paris haute couture under his own name.
This year he’s dipping a toe in the world of interiors with a line of home furnishings and fabrics, and is also trying to appeal to a broader audience by developing a new collection that’s “not exactly ready-to-wear,” he explains.
As for his famously chic Chado Ralph Rucci line—which has been known to fetch tens of thousands of dollars for a single garment thanks to exotic textiles and exquisite tailoring—his spring collection, which showed privately during New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, signals a creative departure.
“I’m using five colors to state the story,” says Rucci, who remains tight-lipped about specifics. “I went through the decades and centuries selecting magical elements that I found.”
In May a movie about the notoriously private designer, more than three years in the making, is slated to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. “I haven’t seen one frame of it,” says Rucci. “It’s somewhat melancholy. There’s no such thing as a pure, illuminated existence.”
photographs by john huba