Photos and text provided by Ralph & Russo.
Each look is a reminder of the glorious 1940s and 1950s: high points in fashion that were so magically captured by the likes of Walde Huth, Henry Clarke, Irving Penn, Willy Maywald and Lillian Bassman. This season’s woman oozes such allure. Soignée and confident, each model could have effortlessly stepped out of an iconic portrait by any of those photographic masters.
The power and drama of that era’s black-and-white fashion imagery is reflected in the cinched waists, the graphic silhouettes and the generous volumes of classic ball gowns – in gazar and organza – that epitomise sophistication. These are goddess gowns that would have sent Ava Gardner’s and Rita Hayworth’s hearts aflutter.
But the collection is not just all oomph. Super-femininity also underlies every aspect of this ‘bouquet’.
Embellishment has been inspired by the romance of an archetypical French garden – jardin à la française. Ornate patterns are intricately hand-embroidered on silk crêpe and Chantilly lace in salmon and rose-pink, with the palette extending to dusty blues, pale greys and shimmery silvers, in light georgettes and tulles.
Chiffon neckties flutter delicately over razor-sharp tailored suits, and bow-belts fasten petal-like peplums that finely frame 50s-shaped pencil skirts. Structural floral corsages blossom majestically on shoulders, and drapes of georgette swirl organically into crisp roses – some bursting at the hips into cascading trains.
For Spring/Summer 2014, Ralph & Russo hail us back to Haute Couture’s heyday – a world in which glamour was rife and reality was forfeited for fantasy. Working in true couture tradition, Ralph & Russo demonstrate atelier skills that attest to why they were invited to membership of the all-prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, making this duo the first British brand in a century to show on the federation’s official schedule. An exceptional garment boasts as many as 1,600 hours of hand embroidery, 800,000 beads and crystals, and 120 hand-made fabric buttons.
Above all, Ralph & Russo demonstrate a lesson in the art of flattery: the svelte shapes and timeless appeal that have got this young maison de couture where they are today and enabled them to build such a steadfast and devoted client base.
With a finale of voluminous, sweeping gowns in raspberry red, royal-blue and white, Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo are flying the Union Jack for Great Britain, bringing Paris Haute Couture Week to a close with a landmark in fashion history.