Ralph & Russo – how a young Maison is redefining Haute Couture

On January 22nd this year, Ralph & Russo were the very first British brand to take to the catwalks of Haute Couture in Paris, the most exclusive club in luxury fashion, which stubbornly celebrates twice a year the most exclusive métiers d’art in fashion – a piece of absolute creativity,  constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses, often using the most time-consuming, hand-crafted techniques.

When setting up their label in 2007, Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo, knew exactly what they wanted and against all hardships, have resisted ready-to-wear aiming to show their creations only in Paris during the twice yearly Haute Couture Week. Their efforts and pursuit of perfection has led to an invitation by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, (the governing body of haute couture) to show in Paris.

‘Design is one thing, but craftsmanship is just as important and many of our team have been trained by the Syndicale. We’re ready for it. Putting together our team and opening a showroom in Paris were probably the biggest challenges we have proven to overcome” the duo told me in a phone interview earlier this year.

When talking about marketing and PR, Tamara and Michael said: ”It is definitely word of mouth which is the most effective promotional tool. Building a relationship with a client means, for us, the ultimate personalized service which they expect from us. We travel around the world to meet them.

When I asked them about how other maisons which produce haute couture collections rely on celebrities in creating awareness for your brand, the duo said ”They come to us and this is the goal of our business. This is what Haute Couture is all about. Discreetness is an integral part of Haute Couture and we believe this must have also countributed to our success.”

My following question was ”Qatar Luxury Group build two years ago a state-of-the-art fashion manufacturing facility in Doha, employing craftsmen and artisans from Europe, with the capability of producing both Haute Couture fashions and Haute Joaillerie. What is your view and how easy it is to replicate such examples?”

I also added, that, it is widely known that former Qatar First Lady, HRH Sheikha Mozah has been a Ralph&Russo, which the duo would not comment. But they said: ”Haute couture is about Paris and all the heritage crafts which were the foundation of the success for the grand couturiers. Haute Couture cannot be replicated. One dress could take months to realize and it is an absolute unique piece, created and conceived for that specific client. It is perfection, while still being a piece of art”

I went on to ask Ralph & Russo about business. The duo said: ”Our dresses come at a very price because of our costs are also very high. We do not create a collection to support sales of a fragrance or ready to wear. When I asked them whether they would consider diversification, the duo said they would surely consider creating a high jewellery collection in the near future. ”Haute joaillerie would perfectly fit the DNA of our business.”

They would not comment on potentialy launching ready-to-wear, but confirmed the mid-term plans to open showrooms in several key capital cities around the world, to be closer to their clients. We do not target specific client profiles or markets – our business is global and we create bespoke pieces  from babies to mature women.”

More photos of the July 10, 2014 Ralph & Russo can be viewed in a dedicated gallery on our Facebook page.

Oliver Petcu in conversation with Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo