Sterling Ruby‘s fashion label S.R. STUDIO L.A., CA is now on the Haute Couture Fashion Week programme, following an invitation from the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, making him the first American Haute Couture designer since Ralph Rucci in 2009.
Similar to how champagne has to be from the Champagne region to be classified as such, for a collection to be called haute couture it must meet a stringent set of industry standards including designing made-to-order clothes for private clients and using an atelier that employs at least fifteen full-time workers.
Haute couture is more art collection investment than wardrobe filler, so the pivot makes sense for Ruby who has been disrupting the distinction between visual artist and fashion designer since his label’s debut at Pitti.
“Since our launch in 2019, it’s been fascinating to learn who the clients of the brand are,” says Ruby, “The range is very broad—from the 20 year old musician to the 70 year old art collector. The commonality is that they are interested in something that is limited and rare, and wear them as forms of personal expression. The Unique pieces, especially due to their relationship to my artwork, have become more a type of collectible. The primary owners of them are private collectors, and some public institutions.”
The new collection of high high–end pieces titled “APPARITIONS” is debuting in the form of a video, as per the pandemic standard, shot on a paint-balling arena in Los Angeles. In addition to paint-splatters being an obvious reference to Ruby’s oeuvre, the artist found the militarized terrain to be metaphorical, “I started watching that footage, thinking about a science-fiction landscape. And also thinking of the US, of politics and the discord that has always been at the heart of US patriotism.”
The clothes themselves refer to a contemporary examination of the cult of America, a theme frequently shared by Ruby’s former collaborator Raf Simons. “I looked at American clothes, at colonial dresses, which for me are inextricable from colonialism, neocolonialism, and religious persecution,” says Ruby. “It’s a response to the history of the United States, the current political climate, the Trump administration, and the ongoing threat of far-right anger.”
The press release notes that the collection was filmed on January 19, the final day of Trump’s presidency. Furthermore, the imagery in the collection uses images from Richard Misrach’s Desert Cantos XI: The Playboys series, in which pages of the magazine were used as shooting practice on a nuclear test site, to question the entanglement of women, iconic American media culture, and violence.
The styling tweaks are less aggressive, referring back to the studio’s namesake and headquarters in Los Angeles, “I was also thinking about the history of American dressing through the trajectory of Hollywood, specifically film noir,” add Ruby “For hair and makeup inspiration, we referenced a lot of stills from neo-noir movies to extend the other-worldly story we are telling.”
While the bulk of the collection is made under the same roof in Ruby’s LA studio, accessories, including the new “instrument cases,” are made in Italy.
As we recently reported, Kim Jones, the creative force behind Dior x KAWS and Louis Vuitton x Supreme, is leading the charge of Fendi’s Haute Couture line. Now, with Sterling Ruby bringing a distinctly American and contemporary perspective with his “APPARITIONS” collection, perhaps haute couture, once the niche proprietorship of wealthy, older women, will be going more the way of hype couture in the following seasons. As the stock market appears to be hacked by redditors as we write this, perhaps more people will possess funds for the investment too.
S.R. STUDIO CA LA’s Haute Couture collection will be available for pre-purchase through a selection of wholesale partners for ten days as of the first week of February, purchases will be cut-to order only and delivered four to six months later.