The Genius in Perfection: A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris

New York City Ballet founder and choreographer George Balanchine once told a journalist, “I don’t create; only God creates. I just assemble very well.” In the documentary A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris C. S. Leigh examines the skill and acumen of one of the greatest American couturiers of all times, Ralph Rucci; and Rucci’s genius for pulling from different sources, and combining couture techniques into great  modern works of beauty.

As the only American couturier approved by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show in Paris in several decades, Ralph Rucci has made his mark on global fashion. A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris gives a telescoped purview into Rucci’s career post his 2002 Paris debut.

From interviews—starting in 2007 and culminating in 2011—with Rucci’s celebrated clients to artisans who work on his collections, to up-close-and personal interviews with Rucci, director C. S. Leigh has crafted a cerebral and detailed look into not only Rucci, but the evolving art of haute couture. “Ralph is marvelous as a person, a friend, and a couturier … everything worn is very comfortable, no frills … he bridges the gap between classic and modern,” contends Princess Lee Radziwill.

Interviews aside, C.S. Leigh meticulously details Rucci’s unbridled passion and reverential obsession for the art of haute couture. “I am making a financial investment in supporting the métier of couture,” admits Rucci. With no big financial machine behind him, Rucci has almost singlehandedly forged a unique American presence in the world of haute couture. A presence that Rucci always believed was dutifully his. “… Paris has always been the focus of my career, I [had to] test myself … I make clothes in New York which I call couture, but I had to prove myself in Paris,” explains Rucci.

The attention to detail and Rucci’s almost priest-like, obsessive dedication to the art of haute couture is evidenced in his measured approach. Even his luxury brand’s name, Chado Ralph Rucci, named after the intricate Japanese tea ceremony, portends the craft and focus necessary to create couture works of art. Though Rucci is obsessive about the perfection needed to create the penultimate black dress or any of his garments, true perfection for Rucci is in the distillation of his ideas, and the arduous tasks of manifesting those ideas.

Images courtesy of C.S. Leigh

C.S. Leigh also expertly weaves beautiful footage from Rucci’s Paris couture shows from 2007 and 2008 around interviews with Hamish Bowles, Andre Leon Talley,  New York Times critic Cathy Horyn, Rosina Rucci, Princess Less Radziwill,  Deeda Blair, Francisco Costa,  Tatiana Sorokko, and Parisian couture artisan Francois Lesage. And though A Quiet American: Ralph Rucci & Paris is still a rough cut and in unedited form, C.S. Leigh in this documentary confirms what is well known in the fashion community, that Ralph Rucci’s work extends beyond trends, and that he is the quintessential American couturier. “Fashion, though fleeting, is a memory you create … yet, Ralph creates garments that are timeless,” says Tatiana Sorokko.

Aptly put!!

—William Gooch

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