Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ralph Rucci – Haute Couture Renegade

To accompany Melbourne Fashion Week, ACMI (that’s the Australian Centre for the Moving Image for the uninitiated) have programmed a season of fabulous fashion flicks “Fashion Icons on Film”, covering fashion heavyweights such as 70’s legend Halston, 60’s uber legend Barbara Hulanicki of Biba (responsible for making fashion accessible to Londoners of the swinging decade - all modern high street stores can thank her for that!), oooober oooober legend Yves Saint Laurent and high-end American haute couturier Ralph Rucci. And who can the Melbourne fashionati thank for this educational silver screen fest, yes, our friend James. (Thank you James :o)). And who do I have to thank for taking me to see this documentary, the super lovely and super talented Rosie.

Ok, so I confess I had absolutely no idea who Ralph Rucci was before I watched this documentary (shame on me, I know), but having watched it at least I now have a partial excuse for this faux pas… I just don’t travel in the right cashed-up circles!

So why is Rucci an haute couture renegade? Well, he’s the first American couturier to have shown in Paris in 60 years, which in the elitist world of haute couture is quite an accolade. Per Wikipedia (god bless it) Haute Couture, (like Champagne) is a term protected by law and to call yourself Haute Couture as well as making to order, you need to have an atelier in Paris employing at least 15 people full time, and each season present a collection in Paris consisting of at least 35 outfits….So if it ain't made in Paris, you've been ripped off! The documentary didn’t quite explain how the American Ralph got round all of this as he made all of his clothes in the US, but he did seem to have hired an atelier in Paris for finishing and he had presented in Paris a few years before the documentary took place.

This film was a total eye opener as (obviously) a junk shop dweller such as myself has never been exposed to this exclusive world, but it was incredible to see just how much work goes into these amazing pieces. From the original designs, the sourcing of the fabrics, designing of the prints and then the needlework itself, wow, it was just a little overwhelming. One dress shown had over 140m of fabric in it, and another had seamstresses individually hand stitching an ocean of sequins and beading. Apparently each dress can take up to 1000 hours work and the mental arithmetic whirring round my head at this stage on the $$$$ never got answered, but I reckon you’re looking at six figures plus per dress. Yes, it’s an exclusive circle!

So go check it out for yourself sometime or the other excellent films at what’s left of ACMI’s fashion week.

Ralph Rucci's beautiful clothes

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