Tuesday 7th July

| BY Paul Toner

Ralph & Russo Takes Haute Couture To The Seven Wonders of The World

The couture experience is defined by volume, craftsmanship and sheer extravagance. A singular gown can take hundreds of hours, and an army of experienced ateliers to construct. But what happens when the world is locked down in the face of a global health pandemic? For the Ralph & Russo team, it was business as usual. The entire team began to work on the brand’s latest Haute Couture collection remotely, keeping in constant contact day in, day out. “The current state of the world really motivated me to slow down and to reflect this season, pushing me to reconsider the inspiration and concept I initially had in mind for this collection, which no longer seemed or felt quite right,” explains Tamara Ralph, creative director and co-founder of the eponymous line. “I felt I had to allow myself this moment of peace, and relish in the rare opportunity to really spend time contemplating the direction I wanted to go in with this collection, and the message I wanted it to convey to the world.”

Ralph and her team began to design with the “limitless beauty of nature” in mind, looking to the seven wonders of the world. “I wanted to create a collection that would allow people to take refuge in fantasy and wonder,” she continues. The team sketched 52 looks in total, bringing a total of 16 to life, both physically and on a digital avatar muse. “While AI as a dimension is something I have always been interested in exploring, especially within the fashion space, really it’s the recent developments in the world, and subsequent limitations, that made me feel now is the right time to do so,” says Ralph. “Our avatar, Hauli, serves as both our model and our brand muse, so she really has come to mean much more to us than simply a virtual model. Bearing a traditional Swahili name that is synonymous with strength and power, Hauli was inspired by and is an embodiment of the spirit of beautiful and inspirational women changing lives in all four corners of the world.”

The creation of Hauli took even longer to than the actual Couture gowns, with Ralph applying the same level of precision to her URL dresses as she would to a sample in real life. The final outcome sees Hauli travel the world in her fantasy fashions. In front of the Taj Mahal, she wears an iridescent evening gown that slithers along her form, sliced up the thigh and dripping in beads. She can be seen once more, now posing at The Great Wall of China in a fish-tail gown with cocooned sleeves and swimming with pressed-florals. Other additions include a mini-dress where the skirt is crafted to resemble a rose in full bloom, as well as a canary yellow number equipped with a cape of epic proportions.

“Making digital a priority will absolutely be our new norm, and I do think this will extend across the entire industry, even beyond couture and into other product categories,” evaluates Ralph. “I’ve really enjoyed and embraced this as a learning experience; the opportunities within this space are truly limitless and allow for so much creativity.” Yet don’t be fooled, Ralph & Russo isn’t abandoning its IRL experience just yet. “I still believe, however, that there is incredible value and a place for engaging with your audience, clients and friends of the brand in real life as well. I think the future will be about trying to strike that ideal balance of both worlds and doing so more responsibly.”