Thursday 24 August 2017

From Haute Couture to Ready-to-wear: Ralph & Russo Open a New Chapter

A dramatic lavender ombré plissé tulle ball gown with tiered skirt and crystal chainmail bodice at Ralph & Russo's haute couture show in Paris last month. Cover picture and all photographs for Design & Art Magazine by Elli Ioannou
As haute couture house Ralph & Russo prepare to launch their first ready-to-wear collection in London next month, we take a look at the label's soigné show that was a major draw card during Paris Couture Fashion Week. Australians Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo head the company in Britain and have plans to create a super luxury brand and the next step is bringing the pret-a-porter range to a new audience, story and photographs by Jeanne-Marie Cilento & Elli Ioannou

Designer Tamara Ralph with partner and CEO
 Michael Russo in Paris last month
TAMARA Ralph and Michael Russo launched their fashion house ten years ago this year, and while they have focused their attention on refining and expanding their haute couture atelier and accessories, the new ready-to-wear collection to be shown in London in September will be another landmark for this remarkable Australian duo. They will join other new faces on the LFW schedule this season including Giorgio Armani and American brand Tommy Hilfiger. Ralph & Russo couture dresses are often seen on the red carpet from Los Angeles to Cannes and worn by actors such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. The fashion house has more than two hundred skilled a artisans in their London atelier and each couture creation takes weeks to complete.

The expansion of the fashion house has included adding the accessories range and opening boutiques around the world ~ there will be fifteen by the end of the year plus the special collection at Harrods with ready-to-wear and couture-quality pieces. Michael Russo says ready-to-wear is on the ground floor of the Ralph & Russo boutiques with a couture service available upstairs. He has also mooted that fragrance, cosmetics and eyewear are planned for the future. British Fashion Council CEO Caroline Rush said that she was very pleased to welcome Ralph & Russo to the London Fashion Week schedule: "The craftsmanship behind their couture collection is a shining example of Britain’s artisan heritage, and I’m excited to see their debut ready to wear collection."  British Fashion Council chairman Dame Natalie Massenet wore a Ralph & Russo suit for her investiture as a Dame at Buckingham Palace last year.

The set for the Ralph & Russo couture show in Paris
with tall pilasters and classical balustradescaption
For the chic and romantic haute couture collection shown in Paris last month, designer Tamara Ralph was inspired by influential 20th century photographers like Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, and Norman Parkinson who captured the glamour she wants her collections to evoke. The runway set was created to look like a classical mansion with tall fluted pilasters and white balustrades. The models stood on the balconies surveying the runway, wearing the signature Ralph & Russo evening gowns with full skirts and sleek silhouettes and full of rich detail such as crystals, sequins, pearls, feathers, embroidery and organza flowers.

Among the front-row guests in Paris were Zendaya, Chopard co-president Caroline Scheufele, photographer Ellen von Unwerth and actress Michelle Rodriguez. The show opened with tailored looks, including a white silk crêpe kimono jacket and a one-shoulder black and silver tweed suit with jewelled buttons. But Ralph & Russo’s haute couture eveningwear is what Tamara Ralph does best. Standout designs were a white organza dress with a ribbon and crystal hand-embroidery that looked like a piece from an Avedon photograph (see below) and a layered tulle gown in beautiful gradations of lavender and violet (see above). A glittering, form-revealing dress made of transparent crystalline mesh made a dramatic contrast to the romantic gowns with trains and was a triumph when Bella Hadid wore a version of it at Cannes.

The collection captured the sophistication
of Richard Avedon & Cecil Beaton
All together there were fifty-seven looks including a gold lace dress with long gleaming fringes and a graceful, white column of a gown that was like what a medieval princess would wear. Indian actress Sonam Kapoor wore the spectacular finale wedding gown, a body-hugging intaglio of Chantilly lace with an overskirt and train embroidered in silver, gold, sequins, and beads, which took some 6,000 hours of hand embroidery. Her hair was sleekly pulled back and covered with a glinting headpiece of gold-embroidered tulle. It will be interesting to see how Ralph & Russo's intricate and luxe aesthetic is translated into new forms for their first ready-to-wear collection.

Tap pictures for full-screen slideshow
Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor wore the spectacular finale wedding gown with a double duchess overskirt hand embroidered with silver and gold bullion, silk, sequins and pearlescent beads.

View from the back of the overskirt and train embroidered in silver, gold, sequins, and beads, which took some 6,000 hours of hand embroidery.

 Tamara Ralph was inspired by influential 20th century photographers like Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, and Norman Parkinson who captured the glamour she wants her collections evoke.

Sleek hair and flowing gowns at the Ralph & Russo haute couture show in Paris. This powder blue chiffon gown and cape overlays a crystal chainmail bustier, edged with crystal and pearl pendant embroidery.
Modern day, medieval princess: white crêpe gown with pleated layers and cape sleeves, hand embroidered with silk and chenille braided cord, crystals and pearls.
Pale pink tulle gown and cape ornately embellished with crystals and silver chain and a
white and gold chain gown, interlaced and embellished with glass beads.
White silk crêpe structured kimono jacket and tailored trousers with silk and velvet braided cord, crystal and pearl hand embroidery.
Rose gold cocktail dress with foil fringe pencil skirt, bullion and crystal embroidered bodice.
Black tulle ruffle mini dress in silver sequins, silver thread, crystal and glass beads with hand embellishment.
White tulle gown with cascading silk fringing, embellished with silver chain, metallic thread-work, opal and gold crystals.
White, amethyst and silver zibeline gown with a baroque floral print, featuring curved draping and bell sleeves with silk organza plissé flowers.
Gold beaded fringe mini dress with crystals, vinyl cut out motifs and glass bead pendants.

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.