This story was originally published on March 3, 2009. It was written for a fashion blog.
Ralph & Russo serves up mystery and interest. This is not because of their famous clientele, but because there are not many brands out there who refuse to give up their exclusivity to the masses.
Considering today’s state of economy, it is especially intriguing to see an exclusive brand thrive and inspire. Ralph & Russo’s dreamy designs seem so out of reach, yet wonderful to observe and admire. I instantly fell in love with the brand as it represents pure class and glamour. There is no question that it is different. The designs allow you to step back into a time of elegance, reminding us of fashion history and its celebrated fashion icons. I imagine wearing Ralph & Russo gives you a feeling that you can accomplish anything. The one-of-a-kind dresses are both demure and empowering. It is no wonder Ralph & Russo caters to women in high positions and class.
The brand has gotten in touch with me because of my work in fashion styling, but knowing the specialness of the brand, I wanted to get a one-on-one interview with the designer. When I propositioned a story for my blog, the Head Designer and Co-founder Tamara Ralph has graciously agreed. The brand is run by partners, Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo. Together they have created the perfect formula for success.
INTERVIEW WITH TAMARA RALPH OF RALPH & RUSSO
The name Ralph & Russo sounds as if it was always meant to be. How was the label created?
TR: Ralph & Russo is a combination of our last names; it represents our streghts and combined what we bring to the company. We met by chance in London. Michael is a natural entrepreneur. After showing him my designs and idea for the company, the business partnership developed from there.
You are the head designer for you collections. What is Michael’s role in the business?
TR: Michael is Sicilian and has a great style about him. He is very business oriented and exceptionally forward thinking, he is the CEO of Ralph & Russo. I am the Head Designer. It suits us both as we can then focus on what we do best and it works well, but it is a combined effort on both our parts. We often bounce off each others ideas. We handpicked all our employees, which is very important to the development of the brand.
The exclusivity of your brand allows for a certain mystery. Who is your target market and can you reveal some of the big names you work with?
TR: We design for quite a few big named celebrities, although we would rather not disclose our clientele. We endeavor to give our clients a personal exclusive service when it comes to our couture work. The label is on an invitation only basis, this way we guarantee our girls uniqueness. We have private members which are given VIP access, showings and incentives which make our label special. The mystery is all a part of the brand. Our target market is the woman that adores luxury and fashion, she is well traveled and styled oriented. Someone who is affluent, an individual, she is edgy, sexy and timeless.
Your creations are one-of-a-kind. Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
TR: A lot of my inspiration comes from my travels, animals, elaborate architecture and history. I am very inspired by my mother’s style. She always decorated our home with exotic worldly treasures from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I love the great Hollywood icons, such as Sophia Loren, and Hollywood glamour. I love feminine pieces with sex appeal and high glamour. I also favor the 1920s and 1940s eras, and the freedom of the 1970s. My inspiration changes all the time, it can be really from simplest things. Bold prints and intricate hand embroidery are also things I tend to incorporate a lot in the designs.
I read that you wanted to be a designer since you were a little girl. How does it feel to look back and see yourself doing what you always loved and aspired to?
TR: It’s a great feeling; design is what I love. Several generations of women in my family worked in fashion, so I grew up surrounded by design. My mother taught me the basics of sewing and I used to watch her while she was making dresses. I was intrigued by it. She kept a collection of vintage Vogue patterns from when she was young so I learned on styles from the 1970’s, altering them to make new styles. I was sketching dresses at the age of 8 and started making dresses from the age of 13. My grandmother gave me my first mannequin which enabled me to teach myself draping.
Your label is relatively young and you have already accomplished a great deal, that is something to be congratulated. What are some of your future plans for the business?
TR: We have some exciting developments over the next year, which I cannot disclose just yet. We are in the process of launching our new couture collection, negotiating new exciting partnerships and developing a completely unique service, which is currently not offered by any other luxury brand. Our couture company grew by word of mouth, so we have quite a few exciting goals this year to develop this facet of the business, notably in the US.
What advice would you give to young women who are in the process of starting a career in fashion design?
TR: Do what you love, if you are doing what you love give it passion, and that is when it comes alive.