Ralph and Russo interview
Chaussure de foot crampon vissé junior nike tiempo pro beyonc loves them. Cheryl married in them. And Angelina? She wore them to meet the Queen. This is how British brand Ralph Russo went from a single sewing machine to the hottest property in haute couture
The 22nd floor of a 1960s London office block is an unlikely location for a haute couture atelier with « hundreds » of the world’s princesses on its books. But then it’s merely one of many unlikely aspects in the story of the house of Ralph Russo.
In January 2014 it became the first British couture company in a century deemed skilled enough to show its collections on the Paris Couture Week schedule. The house’s founders, creative directorTamara Ralph and her business partner and boyfriend Michael Russo, are not some long established grandees of the fashion world, but rather a couple of 30 something Aussies who started off less than 10 years ago with a sewing machine and an ironing board. They have since picked up a 600 plus client list for London made haute couture garments that can cost up to $500,000 (320,000) a pop.
Ralph Russohas dressed Angelina Jolie to receive her honorary damehood, created tour costumes for Beyonc, put Gwyneth in a pink one shouldered Oscars dress and Cheryl Fernandez Versini in a black bridal gown. And, as Russo puts it, they « owned » this year’s Cannes.
In 2013, the couple appeared on Fortune magazine’s list of the 40 most successful business people under 40 nike tiempo pro alongside the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and the founders of Twitter and Airbnb they were only representatives from the global fashion industry. The brand is said to be growing by 400 per cent per year and was given a nine figure valuation when the British Phones 4 U billionaire John Caudwell bought seven per cent of it last year. Just how have they done it?
Given his wealth and connections, Russo could probably view fireworks far superior to Boris Johnson’s in any exotic land any night of the year. But then Russo didn’t build up his business by undervaluing the potential of a London location.
There is an olde worlde courtliness to Ralph and Russo the couple that is a natural fit for the refined world of haute couture. Russo walks beside Ralph, dainty in her white blouse and full black skirt, with his hand at the small of her back, his head bowed to hers as she speaks. Ralph, 33, is a demure blonde with fine facial features, far less garrulous than Russo but drier in humour.
The atelier is her domain. While Russo still seems dazzled by the scale and intricacy of the pieces presented at every turn, Ralph remains gracefully understated. Things are « beautiful » and « gorgeous, yes, but most often « quite nice, A current season bridal dress she shows me later at the brand’s seven storey Mayfair salon (where they hold client appointments) has about 600 metres of tulle in its skirts. « Quite a lot, Ralph says.
There are more than 100 skilled women employed in the atelier embroiderers, tailors, fitters, designers, people who specialise in toile or chiffon or velvet or silk. They are from all over the globe and are masters of their crafts. The size of the team is unheard of in Britain, and what is more surprising is that this young atelier is now on a scale with bigger than, in fact the oldest and most famous haute couture houses. Chanel has an atelier team of about 70.
« When people come to work here, they can’t believe how big it is, Russo says proudly. Frankly, they need the staff. There are 150 dresses in production here right now. Around the space are mannequins or « bodies » as they call them clothed in dresses of varying degrees of fantasy. Some are private orders from this season’s collection, for clients in Dubai, Russia or Greece; some are gowns in development for the next haute couture show, which takes place in Paris on 6 July.
But they are all garments wilder than the dreams of anyone bar the most privileged. The plainest item in the room, a black velvet dress with long sleeves, exudes a sense of luxury beyond class. Even the unadorned cotton toile of a hooded gown with a circular train that must be a few metres in circumference is spectacular. The sheer volume of fabric! Who but a handful of women will ever have the chance to enter a room with that weight and width spreading behind them?
In the embroidery department (about 30 women strong, many of them French), an art team sits drawing meticulously detailed plans of the handwork patterns flowers, leaves, feathers, buds. Nearby, the embroiderers sew treasures on to fabric using elfin stitches in gold and silver threads: thousands of tiny Swarovski crystals, micro pearls, hand painted feathers, tiny identical leaves cut from specially commissioned guipure lace. The craftsmanship is painstaking chaussure de foot crampon vissé junior hours of work are behind and ahead.
A single dress will take at least six weeks and 30 odd pairs of hands. Ralph knows the exact stage that each garment is at and likes nike tiempo pro to oversee from beginning to end. She works closely with the head of the atelier, Madame Shirley, but she maintains a piercing eye that can spot a misshapen lace flower at 50 paces or a missing pearl in a sea of 20,000. « The couturiers don’t like to see me walking towards them because they know I’m going to say, ‘What is that?' » she jokes.
« Couture is about what you don’t see as well as what you do, she adds. « The inside of a dress is as important as the outside. From the embroidery to the construction techniques, to the handwork that goes into them. Every single detail is thought about completely, Later, she shows me a gown smothered in little organza buds, each of which takes three days to make. You could get obsessive compulsive disorder in this environment, I comment. « Yeah, Ralph says, drily. « Quite easily »
On the other side of the room, a group of six women are assembling « bodies » on stands. Each new client has a mannequin made for her. Thirty five measurements are taken so that an exact replica of her figure can be built from wadding. There are plenty of slim bodies and larger ones too. « We have every shape of woman, Ralph says. Some women have more than one « body, tracking the changes in their shape. Gwyneth Paltrow’s slender torso is up here today, resplendent in a dress that I am not allowed to describe.
Clients order pieces from the seasonal collections that show in Paris in January and July. They may alter any aspect of the design, but Ralph Russo will make only one version of each garment per country to retain the exclusivity. « Not everybody can afford our dresses, says Ralph, in one of the understatements of the year. « But we chaussure de foot crampon vissé junior still get hundreds of requests for dresses per week,
While traditionally an order takes a minimum of six weeks to deliver, some customers can’t wait that long. So Ralph Russo has modernised the haute couture model by opening boutiques (there is one in Harrods in London) that hold gowns made by the atelier, which can be custom altered forthe woman in a hurry. It’s an off the peg couture service that now accounts for 50 per cent of the business.
Still, the other 50 per cent continuesto boom. At around 600 couture dresses a year, they are catching up with Chanel. A large percentage is bridal. « We make gowns for a lot of foreign royal weddings, Russo says. « We seem to be the houseof choice for royal brides, Almost every day of the week, someone from the team is in a different part of the world with a customer « Today is Cannes, tomorrow is Greece, Friday is Qatar, rattles off Ralph. Children’s couture is also a growing market. « Our youngest customer is literally a baby, says Ralph. « Flower girls and christenings, special events that require a beautiful outfit that can be kept in an archive as a special memory,
Earlier this year, Chanel’s haute couture collection made its first ever visit to London, staying for three days to allow clients to order from somewhere other than its Paris atelier.
Part of the reason that Ralph Russo has been so successful is precisely because it is not located in Paris. It is instead well placed to service London’s influx of the global super rich. « London has a very international clientele. It’s very high profile. A lot of big social events happen in the city, but there wasn’t a couture house here, Ralph says.
« People want the fantasy and the drama and the exclusivity and the beautiful craftsmanship of haute couture. But they want it to be able to fit into their lifestyle,
And the demands of the super rich’s lifestyle are great. Fez, the company’s driver, Russo says, is kept moving so
fast that he « must be the most hated man on the road,
« Clients will book an appointment right up to the wire, so that we have one hour to get them from the atelier nike tiempo pro to a flight. That’s one thing we’ve learnt how to do, actually, Russo laughs, « hold flights, They once had to charter
a private jet at short notice, to fly someone from the atelier to a client who was on their yacht in the middle
of the ocean. « Sometimes it feels like a Bond movie, Ralph jokes.
Ralph always knew that she was destined for the world of haute couture. Her mother and grandmother were both couturiers for society ladies in Sydney, and when Ralph was about 10 they began to teach her everything they knew.
« From cutting and stitching to sketching, draping, hand embroidery all the techniques. Even when I was
a couple of years old, all I was interested in was drawing dresses and fashion, chaussure de foot crampon vissé junior so when I learned the techniques, that’s all I wanted to do. I would come home from school and sit at the sewing machine and just create and create, nike tiempo pro.