As always, for fall 2007, Ralph Rucci presented a beyond-elegant Chado Ralph Rucci collection Friday evening in the Tent at Bryant Park, full of the couture-like craftsmanship and luxe details we have come to expect from this singularly talented American designer, who celebrates his 25th anniversary in the industry this year.
"Ralph Rucci is my absolute design idol," said Project Runway alum Laura Bennett as we made our way into the venue. "The prints and the luxury; it’s just unparalleled. This is the show I’ve been waiting all week to see. I’m very happy to be here. This is defintely what I want to do when I grow up."
Well, that's nothing if not an admirable goal.
And while we could find no fault with the clothing itself - indeed, the fur-trimmed satin parka, chocolate alligator origami jacket, black velvet suit, Louise Nevelson-inspired coats and directional seamed wool dresses were the epitome of monied, sophisticated chic - the presentation was deeply marred by Rucci's use of too-thin models, several of whom appeared to be suffering from eating disorders (or, to use the current PC term, disordered eating), and many of whom did little justice to the sublime creations they wore, as it was difficult to appreciate the beauty of Rucci's designs when the bodies beneath bore shoulders so knobby they resembled door knockers, and shoulder blades that jutted out of low-back gowns like the fragile wings of a malnourished baby bird.
We realize that Rucci is far from alone in his use of exceptionally skinny girls (and, let's face facts, most runway models are teenagers or barely in their 20s, so the term "girls" is apt). But coming at the end of a long week of shows marked by one skeletal parade after another, it was saddening - nay, downright sickening - to end New York Fashion Week looking at yet another show populated by emaciated young women who have, quite literally, been reduced to clothes hangers.
It is obvious, CFDA entreaties aside, that the fashion industry is not capable of policing itself on this matter (and we're not sure that it really is the fashion industry's job to do so - after all, these girls have modeling agencies and, one presumes, families who are better suited to the task). But it is certainly true that if designers took a stand and refused to hire sick, stick-thin models, there would cease to be a reason for these girls to starve themselves in order to keep working.
This point was unintentionally driven home even further when Rucci sent out a black jersey "x-ray" gown with a sheer chiffon inset tracing the model's ribs and spine. Coming, as it did, on the back of yet another alarmingly thin mannequin, the effect was upsetting rather than uplifting.
In fact, though his designs were stunning, we left Rucci's show feeling embarrassed to be part of an industry that continues to promote such unhealthy, unrealistic ideas of female beauty, despite the hollow media outcry that things are changing for the better.
When it comes to matters of body image and the fashion industry, this was a shameful way to end the week.
Photos © Gg/The Bigger Picture Pictures. For additional, larger images from this show, click here