Tonight at Ralph Rucci's fall 2011 presentation I was reminded of why fashion matters. In a sea of mediocrity with schools of fish filling every space like krill in full retreat there will occasionally appear a species so rare that no textbook or scientist can readily identify or classify it. Instead, one just stares dumbly at the extraordinary fact of its existence. Tonight was one of those moments. I felt that I was witnessing something that would be hard to describe to anyone who hadn't seen it for themselves. Fashion is so chock full of the fabulous, the brilliant and the divine. Hyperbole is like air in this world. So what do you say when you see something that is so astounding you almost don't believe it was real? How can you compare it to other collections when you've been grading them all on a curve? Is it possible to have one compartment for the rest of what's out there and another that contains only this one? Intellectualizing and articulating something that produces a purely physical and emotional response is beyond me. Let me just say that the moment the show started I saw RED.
A red mongolian lamb jacket led the army of 61 looks over signature creations of double face cashmere dresses with trapunto stitching like braided basket weave, all liquid and plastic . No hard lines only undulating movement. Red sable, red chinchilla, red mink. Luxe separates in red micro bugle beads and livid moire. Fire and passion. Every line, detail, gesture, nuance was an expression of his soul, his fire. There was no sense that the clothes had been styled, manipulated or manufactured. It was as though each and every piece grew from his imagination. There was not a single look that wasn't essential, 1000% complete and if there is such a thing as perfect, they were perfect. Certainly, these clothes are not for everyone. Price aside, you need to have an appreciation for the extraordinary. Here is a designer that only searches for new ways to create volume, never before seen decorative surfaces, finishes and "trims" to punctuate those shapes that just boggle the mind. Imagine a show where every look is almost a rifle shot. Your senses are almost overwhelmed by one creation after the other and each is more beautiful than the last.
Jersey dresses that for a moment seemed a respite from his assault had skirts with horse hair insertions and rows of knotted piping. Black, bronze and ivory and gray parted his red tide. Jackets in cashmere, moire, Etro wool paisley and other fabrics usually associated with interiors were all expertly molded, draped and cut with sleeves that echo the curve of the arm and bodies that follow the line of spine. A red patent leather raincoat was covered from collar to cuff in trapunto stitches like braided hair of an Edo-period warrior. Symmetry gave way to asymmetry. Nothing was pat. No simple answers just elemental questions. A black matte paillette pajama walked past and the woman to my right said that it suggested Halston. I agreed that it did, but it was even better. If there were references they were murmurs from his past. His march is forward, inexorable, never retreating... and then came more Red.
Layers and layers of silk mouselline with a glaze of shine here and shadow there on a strapless column. An ensemble of duchesse satin sculpted into a shrug with emphatic sleeves over a column of sublime simplicity. They kept coming and each was more audacious than the previous one. Ralph had opened the vein of his imagination and there was no stopping the flow. He seemed to be saying, "take this and this and this." This was a show. No one seemed to care that we were being transported. Are you a hostage if you go willingly? This was a journey light years away from what we've seen. It was only supposed to be a short trip, a 10 minute jaunt. It was anything but that.
This man is a national treasure. He is the greatest living designer of this century and most of last. There's no one working that can touch his skill, imagination, rigor, spirit, and commitment, no one. The bar has been raised and the gauntlet tossed. Like any priceless treasure, monument or institution we have a collective responsibility to keep him and his house alive. That means our press, as misguided and small minded as it is, yes that's Vogue and Conde Nast I'm referring to and our luxury retailers both major and minor have a responsibility to support and promote the house. The same goes for the wealthy women of this country who are devoted couture customers abroad. The fact that Anna Wintour was nowhere in the room was nothing short of irresponsible. An absence such as hers almost appears personal. If Andre Leon Talley, Hamish Bowles, Cathy Horyn, Glenda Bailey, Suzy Menkes, Bobbie Queen, Constance White and an army of other journalists, not to mention the big guns of the most important stores here and abroad were there, something important is brewing. To be blunt, there was no representation from Italian, Paris, Nippon or any other Vogue magazines for that matter. Is there a Conde Nast black out? You'd think these important editors would be there considering they were spotted elsewhere in town. Even Boaz Mazor was working the room and it wasn't even Oscar's show.... (go figure). Marc's show at the Armory started late enough for all of the girls to have caught both. It was their loss.