Ralph Rucci wrote his show notes as an open letter to his audience, a direct appeal, which, in some ways, clarified his extraordinary technique, but in others merely served to obfuscate. Like so: “My dream is that the viewers will be hypnotized by the newness.” That was Rucci’s fervent wish for his use of tulle as an inset detail to reveal the body moving underneath his precisely sculpted jackets and dresses.
Actually, in days of Rucci passed, a feeling of being hypnotized was a pretty common reaction to the designer’s awe-inspiring craftsmanship. With time, it’s become more distilled and lighter, as in outfits as beautifully cut as the springy little wrap dress in white wool, which opened today’s show, or the monastic white crepe shirt dress that came later. A rain jacket in floral-printed PVC suggested the lightness was of heart as well as weight.
Or maybe not. A longtime Rucci signature is artful slashing, the gaps articulated by tulle. There is a subtle violence in such a notion, and it was more obvious than ever in this collection. Seams obsess Rucci. Here, the simplest shapes were bisected by black lines, a nod to AbEx master Barnett Newman that was typical of the designer. In the same spirit, he incorporated the abstract sweep of some of his own paintings into prints for his eveningwear.
It’s that degree of hyper-aestheticism that divorces Rucci from the mainstream of American fashion. Sportswear? Scarcely. Just two examples—big, a dress in silk taffeta origami; small, a simple shell composed of minute wooden beads. And yet the audience response to a gown of silk crepe draped over a sequined inner column pointed to a human appreciation of the purest glamour. That is always bubbling under the prevailing fashion trends, and it’ll put Rucci in the history books.