ON SECOND THOUGHT: Ralph Rucci’s initial plan was to show his latest couture collection in Paris earlier this year, but the Federation de la Haute Couture’s post-pandemic mandate of a minimum of 25 looks nixed that plan. With respect to that requisite, the New York-based designer bowed out. His latest designs were highlighted in sketches by fashion designer Bil Donovan and will be sent with swatches to well-heeled clients, media and friends on Saturday.

Decades into his run as an independent New York-based designer, Rucci is unabashed about his views. The assortment is Rucci’s priciest one to date, selling for upward of $25,000, versus the previous benchmark of $15,000, due mostly to increased labor costs for his handmade designs. The fact that many artisans are retiring and younger generations are not succeeding them, especially in the U.S., added to the cost.

Unruffled that clients might balk at the price jump, Rucci said loyalists are assured that they will get the quality that they are used to and newcomers are keen to invest in built-to-last, high-ticket items. They are ordering from sketches, suggestions and sample techniques from New York, France, Qatar and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — followed by toiles, Zoom calls, fittings and corrections. Although Rucci “does not visit stores,” reading a fashion magazine recently he was “shocked” by how ready-to-wear prices have jumped.

Rucci’s substantially elevated prices have been driven up partially by materials costs, but mainly due to the handwork, he said. Case in point, “utterly summer-weight” trousers in wool gauze that require extensive faggoting — pulling grain on the crossgrain to knot it in segments that are pulled for alternating rows that are straight and knotted. Although the designer has used the technique for effect for years, using it for an entire garment requires three months of work.

“No one who buys couture sits in the front rows anymore. The people who fill the front rows are paid [to be there] for publicity,” he said. “This past season the couture collection that received the most press attention had to do with taxidermy. It’s crazy. There was a lion’s head on one of his dresses,” he said, an apparent reference to Schiaparelli designer Daniel Roseberry’s latest offerings. Showgoer Kylie Jenner’s choice of a strapless Schiaparelli with a faux lion’s head on the bodice gave the European house a global media blitz.

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 23: Kylie Jenner attends the Schiaparelli Haute Couture Spring Summer 2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week  on January 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

Kylie Jenner attends the Schiaparelli haute couture spring summer 2023 show in Paris in January.

Getty Images

“Not part of that” scene, Rucci said his team makes clothes that women wear regularly, which is why most of his couture consists of day clothes. “If they come to me for a coat, the coat has to be spectacular,” he said, citing a white double-faced cashmere caban jacket with coral and black insets. Other styles feature quarter-inch strips of biased-cut crepe de chine that are hand-stitched on a tulle foundation.

Rucci’s latest project is renovating his Upper East Side apartment to create a couture salon that will open in May. It is being designed to be reminiscent of a sculpture garden with custom-made racks that are meant to look like pagodas in bronze and vermeil. Not wanting to spoil the surprise factor of the anchor piece that is planned for the salon, Rucci would only say the foundry-made item took two years of work, and will have to be hoisted into the apartment from outside to be installed. They couldn’t manage it with the freight elevator.

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