Ralph & Russo is an international luxury fashion brand known for its designs that are described as both contemporary and timelessly elegant. The brand was created in London in 2010 by Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo. In 2014, it became the first British guest member in almost 100 years to be invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show their first runway collection as part of the Spring/Summer season.
In an inclusive interview with founders, Tamara and Michael, Euronews’ Jane Witherspoon got the lowdown on the iconic brand.
How did the brand come about, what did you want that brand to stand for?
Tamara Ralph: It really grew out of a passion for luxury and craftsmanship and design. I come from four generations of fashion and haute couture in my family. And when we had a chance meeting, it was something that we talked about, setting up a luxury brand. And we always had a vision to have a global luxury brand.
You were invited to join the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, the first British brand to showcase a Fashion Week in almost 100 years.
Tamara Ralph: It was really quite a big milestone and the first Australians ever to be invited. And you know it was always something that was very important for the brand. To be recognised by the Chambless Syndicale was an incredibly important achievement.
We had obviously, the support of Didier Grumbach, at the time who was the president and was actually responsible for discovering a lot of the big names in fashion and nurturing their careers. So it was wonderful to have the support.
How do you personally define couture?
Tamara Ralph: Couture is an art. You know, all of our clients that purchase couture, they purchase it for generations. It’s really something that’s an investment. It’s like a piece of jewellery. It’s something that you’ll pass down and keep forever. And for us, that’s really special.
How have dressmaking techniques changed over the years? How have you adopted the changes? Have you stayed traditional?
Tamara Ralph: So we have a really big atelier, actually, that specialises in the couture side. And then we have obviously craftsmen in the house that specialise in other product categories, such as ready to wear and things like that. But in the couture atelier, there’s forty-five languages spoken. There’s ages ranging from 16 all the way up until the 60s. And it’s really nice to have that mix of the old techniques get more modern applications and things like that. We like to push and constantly innovate. We run apprentice programmes in-house where we can train and develop and innovate as well. So that’s really important.
You’ve dressed many wonderful clients, like Meghan Markle. Is that a challenge? How exciting or daunting is it?
Tamara Ralph: No, I think it was very it was very exciting, obviously, you know.
I think it was such an iconic moment because obviously not just because of the two of them, but also because of her choice of piece for the day, which was, you know, a little bit different to what I think, you know, some people were expecting. And I think that’s nice. It showed her personality. It pushed the boundaries.
Do your clients have much input if you’re designing something specific and special for them, or do you come up with the idea and see it through to completion?
Tamara Ralph: Both
Michael Russo: We’ve had some really diverse celebrity moments from stage outfits for Beyonce to the costume outfits for Angelina Jolie, for Maleficent. It’s been so diverse. So the challenge is always there.
Tamara Ralph: Yeah but also I think with clients, all of our private clients, it’s a very personal experience, you know, no matter if they’re a celebrity or a private client. And, you know, we love to guide them and be part of the process and be very involved.
How hard has it been to showcase virtually?
Tamara Ralph: It was an evolution, that’s for sure. I think that it’s difficult to create the connection that you have with the physical show. I think that was something that was the hardest part to kind of keep, alive. But I loved the innovations and things.
I thought it was very interesting just to push the boundaries with digital, to play with new ideas. But, you know, I think that the traditional fashion shows are still very important and are important to get that sense of what the collection is about, So, you know, a balance of both going forward. I think one is just as important as the other.
Why did you choose to launch in Dubai?
Michael Russo: Well, I think Dubai has got such a multicultural following, and I think for us as well, it’s a product that’s well suited for the market.
It’s got a customer base that’s very akin to Ralph & Russo and well known to Ralph & Russo. For us in this region, it was definitely our first flagship in the region.
Would you say you have a different clientele in Dubai?
Michael Russo: I think in Dubai we find that there’s a lot of tourists here and those tourists are typically Ralph Russo clients already. So the products that we’re offering here are still akin to the ones that we use worldwide and I think relevant to our worldwide customer as well as the local market. So I think it’s a nice little mix of local and international clients.
Do you think that the fashion scene in Dubai is growing? How does it compare to known fashion cities like New York, Milan, London and Paris.
Tamara Ralph: Well, I think it’s definitely, you know, integral to the Gulf region. Yeah, you know, it’s really the hub of the region. It’s so incredibly international. And I think, you know, it’s a huge destination for fashion for the region. So, yeah, I think it’s incredibly important.
You’re about to become a mum for the first time, how is that going to change your work-life balance?
Tamara Ralph: Yeah, of course. I mean, it teaches you definitely to kind of find that balance, which I think I probably didn’t have before. And so, you know, I have a great team.
You know, we have an amazing support structure internally in the company. And we’ll find a way, you know, and plus it might be a chance to kind of venture into a full fledged childrenswear line. You know, well, I’m having a girl, so now we have our first model.
You’re expanding into accessories, are there beauty lines down the line?
Tamara Ralph: What’s been amazing actually through, just before Covid and also through Covid is, you know, a few different things. We were able to kind of reset our thinking, focus on what we’d like to achieve in the next couple of years. And so, you know, cosmetics and beauty is something we’re very interested in. Home and furnishings and everything connected to that sector is actually something that we’ve been slowly putting in the works for a little bit of time.