There was an intensely emotional sense of occasion around Ralph Rucci’s first showing of his Chado collection on the haute couture schedule. It’s a big deal for an American to be invited into this closely guarded Parisian establishment. And the designer was well aware of its importance. “I’ve been working my whole life to get to this moment," said Rucci, who has been creating his spare, immaculately made sportswear in New York for 20 years. "The rigor and religiousness of this industry in Paris is a constant. You can work in America, do made-to-measure to the highest standard, but until you come here, you cannot call it haute couture.”
The show itself was deliberately low-key, the better to play up the quiet presence of his design. He opened with an outfit that perfectly blended elements of American sportswear with the delicate wizardry of great couturiers like Cristobal Balenciaga: a sable hood, matching ski pants in knitted mink, and a cream double-faced knitted cashmere sweat top, hand-stitched into the waistband with tiny gathers. The daywear had minute attention to detail: double-faced fabric pieced together with slivers of gauze articulating the seams, or textured zones created by dense braidings of silk. Beneath the apparent restraint of a taupe suit or an olive satin parka lay both luxury and intelligence.
For evening, Rucci built up a more overt sense of grandeur, not just through his use of materials like feathers, broadtail, velvet, moir¿ silk and embellished surfaces, but also by his obsession with splendid volumes. He loves the stately presence of sweeping stoles and cloaks, a tendency that showed up in many other collections this week. Which brings us to an ironic but auspicious point: Rucci may say he abhors trends, but the signs are that his instincts fit very nicely into the Paris point of view.