Haute Couture is the crème de la crème of the fashion world, steeped in both history and serious wealth. Couture isn’t designed for the masses but for the elites, however, designer Tamara Ralph and businessman Michael Russo have reshaped the world of contemporary couture. Just four years on from the brands inception, the pearly gates of Paris Couture Fashion week were burst open by Ralph and Russo when they debuted their first runway collection in 2014. To be formally invited to show in Paris and become a member of the Chamber Syndicale de la Haute Couture is to be granted a golden ticket; for a designer it doesn’t get any better than this. Fellow members include industry legends from Chanel to Balenciaga and Givenchy, fashion houses with decades of experience. To be both a young and British-based brand (Couture has never flown so west of Paris before) was once a disadvantage and deemed impossible, but Ralph and Russo have defied the odds and broken down tradition, making space for a new wave of couture and clientele. From royalty to red carpet, inspiring women from across the world are choosing to wear Ralph and Russo. Here we discuss their path to success, their partnership and what the future holds for them as a brand.
Words by Charlie Newman.
This is an interview extract. Find out the full version in the Spring Summer 2020 Issue 4
Congratulations on your ten-year anniversary as a brand! When the brand was ﬁrst born, did you have a business plan to get to where you are today or has it evolved organically? Where would you like to see Ralph and Russo in another decades time?
Tamara: It was a bit of both, to be honest. When we first launched the brand in London, we didn’t have any established connections in the industry and truly had to start from square one – I had just arrived from Australia, and Michael’s background was in the world of finance – but our business really took off through word of mouth. We were also incredibly fortunate to have received interest from major celebrities from the beginning, which of course helped to make a name for ourselves quite early on.
Michael: We always had the vision (or business plan, if you will!) of becoming a global luxury lifestyle brand – with product offerings that serve every facet of our clients’ lives. This is something we have been working towards from the beginning, but will be making great strides towards achieving in the next decade – with exciting launches to come even within the next year! In addition to expanding upon our product categories, we will also be rolling out more boutiques globally in key markets, with New York launching first in the coming months.
Tamara: We’re very excited for what’s next for Ralph & Russo!
You are the first British Fashion house in the past century that have been recognized by the Chambre Syndicale. What does this mean to you and your career? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being London-based?
Tamara: Being invited to show at the official schedule of the Chambre Syndicale will always be one of our greatest and most cherished achievements – and one we feel really put us on the map. We are proud to be the only luxury brand with its roots in London representing couture in Paris, and this has given us opportunity to align ourselves with some of the world’s most celebrated luxury brands.
Michael: London, for us, was the natural place to launch our brand, as it’s where the inception of Ralph & Russo took place. Whilst Paris will always be at the heart of couture, and is very dear to our brand, we wanted to acknowledge the history of excellence in design and craft that lies within London and present an offering which had not previously been accessible here.
Launching in London was a challenge at first, though as one of the world’s fashion capitals and a cosmopolitan hub for travel and creativity, it allowed us to address the market’s demands and engage an audience who frequently travel to London. Also, many of our clients are based in London or frequently travel here, so it’s served as the ideal base for the brand and touchpoint for our clientele.
Angelina Jolie wore your attire to meet the Queen, Cheryl Tweedy to marry, Beyonce on tour, Gwyneth Paltrow to the Oscars, Meghan Markle to announce her engagement, to name just few of your glittering supporters. Your clients seem to wear your clothes for special occasions when they want to feel empowered. Who is the Ralph and Russo woman? Do you have a muse or is it ever changing depending on the collection or times.
Michael: Our customer has really evolved since the brand’s inception; with the expansion of our product categories beyond pure couture and into ready-to-wear, leather goods and accessories, and most recently, sneakers. We’ve not only diversified our identity as a brand but also our clientele, who have now grown to span both a variety of backgrounds and ages.
Tamara: The Ralph & Russo woman is both elegant and feminine, international and a leader in her field, and most importantly, is confident not only in herself, but also in her style choices.
Talent Eva Klimkova appears courtesy of Elite Model London.
Photo assistant, Austn Fischer. Production support by Jump Studio.
Sasha appears courtesy of A&R Creative. Massimo appears courtesy of WM Management.
Read Tamara and Michael's interview in the Spring Summer 2020 Issue 4. Get your copy here.