Founded only in 2007 by creative genius Tamara Ralph and savvy businessman Michael Russo, British fashion couture house Ralph & Russo already made history when they were invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show their collection on the official schedule at Paris Haute Couture Week – the first British brand to have received this honour in the past 100 years! The British couture house was recruited when Mr Didier Grumbach, the Chambre Syndicale’s former president, realised the event had lost some of its timeless elegance: “We expect savoir-faire, which is being lost, and Ralph & Russo has it,” he’s quoted as saying.
In such a short space of time, the brand has become known for its showstopping red carpet-ready gowns, with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelia Jolie donning these stunning works of art at prestigious awards ceremonies and movie premieres. But, far from being a one-trick pony, Ralph & Russo also design street-style-ready pieces as well as a range of opulent shoes and bags to accessorize your outfit. Their innovative silhouettes, embroidered with dazzling feminine patterns and adorned with crystals and feathers, are a visual statement to the brand’s commitment to both design innovation and extraordinary craftsmanship – all their designs are handmade by a professional team of highly-skilled artisans.
Ralph & Russo didn’t disappoint: their AW17/18 couture collection was a lavish display that oozed savoir-faire from every sequin, pearl and organza flower. The show opened with a few tailored cocktail suits, including an off-the-shoulder tweed number with bejewelled buttons and a pure white tailleur embellished with cut out flowers in the same matching hue – the perfect power outfits for a lady boss who needs to transition from morning business meetings to after-hour drinks with girlfriends.
While the daytime outfits were impressive, it is the eveningwear that stole the show: short cocktail dresses and floor-length gowns were given new, innovative shapes and embellished with a cascade of gold crystals, feathers, pearls, sequins and organza flowers. Among the pieces that stood out to me was a metallic sapphire gown veiled in tulle and decorated with ostrich feathers, a petal pink off-the-shoulder mermaid frock that features sculptural blooms on the skirt and sleeves, an ink black number with a deep V-neck clustered with bejewelled crystals and a white organza dress that seemed to rain crystals and ribbons.
For the finale, Ralph & Russo brought out Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor in a sumptuous bridal gown: the delicate Champagne Chantilly lace was fashioned into a double duchess overskirt and train and hand-embroidered with silver and gold threads, flowers, sequins and pearlescent micro beads. It’s a wedding dress worthy of a modern princess!
As I was watching the models strut down the catwalk bedecked in all their luxurious finery, I couldn’t help but think of a fashion era that has long gone by, which was the designer’s intent all along. For this collection, Ralph & Russo were obviously inspired by master fashion photographers like Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton. As Tamara Ralph herself said: “We wanted to have reminiscences of those times, but capture it in a modern way.” Judging from their couture offering, I’d say that they have accomplished their aim and surpassed everyone’s expectations!