Ralph Rucci has listened to the voices: You show too many outfits, you're confusing people, you must edit. So he did, offering up a Fall collection that was pared down and streamlined in a way that would have been unthinkable for Rucci even a year ago. His talent and technique are so protean that it may have seemed tantamount to insisting that Beethoven write not a symphony but an advertising jingle, except that here, the discipline worked wonders for Rucci. Not that he isn't already the most disciplined of designers, but that doesn't always translate in a world that wants the top story in point form. Which has meant that there have been times when Rucci has—for his ardent boosters, at least—seemed heartbreakingly out of sync. (He surely sympathizes with how Cristobal Balenciaga felt as the modern world grimly turned.)
No more. The trim angularity of Rucci's new collection was an effective engagement with a fashion culture that sees the likes of Raf Simons and Karl Lagerfeld working on ways to turn the purity of couture into a more quotidian affair. Maybe that meant you had to picture footwear slightly more athletic than Manolo Blahnik's fetish boots paired with Rucci's outfits, but once you took that leap, the sporty energy of his outfits asserted itself. His articulated seaming was the clearest expression of that. He used to call it Frankenstein stitching because it looked like the fabric was scarred. Still does, except today Rucci was talking about the patterns created by crop circles. Definitely something for the next dinner party.
There's always a major caveat with any discussion of Rucci's integration into the here and now: We're not talking jersey here. His collection was, as ever, an exercise in spectacular fabrication. But he was canny enough to defuse deluxe with unexpected interventions. It seemed safe to assume the intricately quilted coatdress that opened the show was exquisite napa. Wrong. It was vinyl. And color played a big part in tipping the collection toward something odder, more modern. Black was the foundation, but the accent shades were extraordinary: a sick green ("artichoke," Rucci called it), a flaring red, burgundy, lavender, persimmon.
Nothing made the editor's eye more obvious than the show's dial-down on evening, once upon a time an opportunity for Rucci to go hell-bent for gazar. Yes, gazar made a guest appearance, a huge hand-painted swathe of it, attached to a simple black velvet tank. But that gown's predecessor on the catwalk crystallized the designer's ability to infuse convention with peculiarity. It was an extraordinary column of chiffon and paillettes, colored a scorched rust. Now that was a real aftermath of a dress.