What I Saw at the Couture

Courtesy of Chado Ralph Rucci

Crocodile gowns and cocktail rings. Oh my! Patty Hambrecht reports on the gems of Ralph Rucci’s latest collection.

Paris, October 2007

The story of how I got backstage at Ralph Rucci’s Paris couture show begins, as so many great stories do, with a ring. A client of mine (I run a jewelry advisory service) sat next to Rucci on a plane, where he admired her simply set diamond. Next thing I knew, my phone rang and Ralph Rucci was on the line asking if I could make a ring for his spring collection. I quickly explained that he was, in fact, praising the designs of the Munich-based Hemmerle family. Soon after, introductions were made, sketches drawn, fabric matched, and 16 Hemmerle rings handmade to accompany Rucci’s spring couture creations down the runway.

It all came together at Rucci’s spring couture collection in Paris, October 7, in the Palais de Tokyo—49 ready-to-wear and 26 couture exits in 25 minutes. Longtime Rucci clients Susan Gutfreund and Deeda Blair sat in the front row; near them, James Galanos, the American couturier to whom many compare Rucci. Gutfreund explained the root of her devotion. “Ralph can take an ordinary material and turn it into a work of art,” she said. Blair agreed: “Ralph’s clothes are deceptively simple. They are, in fact, quite complex with surprising seaming, balanced proportions, and remarkable distinction.” Hearing her reminded me of the Hemmerle philosophy on jewelry: The technique must be invisible.

In the end, nine of Rucci’s couture garments were accessorized with those bold Hemmerle rings he admired on my friend on the plane. A crocodile and damask gown was paired with a peridot mounted in brass. A gray jersey gown with moonstone set in aluminum. A black jade ring with an ostrich feather dress. At the end I saw some models back in their jeans and sneakers, ready to make a quick exit. Others lingered, almost reluctant to remove such beautiful clothes.

P.S. Five of the Hemmerle rings have already been sold. Now that’s a happy ending.

Ralph Rucci couture, by special order only; 212-819-9066. Hemmerle jewelry, 49-89/242-2600. Patty Hambrecht is the owner of the jewelry advisory service Jaspar (212-333-5423).