Dream Makers: Tamara Ralph Of Ralph & Russo Reveals What It Takes To Make A Bespoke Gown
The British couture label, Ralph & Russo, has been worn by the world’s rich and famous—Meghan Markle wore a sheer gown from the brand for her engagement shoot in 2017—and it is the first British brand since 1915 to be admitted to the official programme of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. In a span of 12 years, it has turned its small couture atelier into a global powerhouse, boasting over 1,000 clients ranging from Hollywood celebrities to Chinese billionaires, launching new boutiques in major cities worldwide including New York and Monte Carlo, as well as introducing its ready-to-wear collection.
One half of the wonder duo, Tamara Ralph speaks to us after the presentation of its SS19 Couture Collection, marking its 11th season in Paris Haute Couture Week.
Congratulations, the collection is amazing! Tell us more about it.
Tamara Ralph (TR) Thank you! I’m glad to hear that you loved the collection! I’ve always loved black-and-white Hollywood movies and [the late Mexican actress] María Félix had this incredible allure about her—she’s wonderfully confident, had a sophisticated sexiness and was unafraid to own her unique character. She’s naturally empowered; it was impossible not to be inspired by her.
What inspired your finale bridal gown design?
TR I wanted to create a look that was ultra-feminine and beautifully embellished, but in a very modern and understated way. The embroidery consists of over 60,000 crystal xilions, 35 large crystal stones and over 15 reels of silk floss thread-work, all composed in a stunning baroque design across the gown and edging the 3m-long train.
The look is accompanied by a hand-crafted headpiece composed entirely of silk flowers edged in crystals and bugle beads. While designing, I was so inspired by the traditional Latina headdress you see worn at special events and dramatised by the likes of [Brazilian actress and singer] Carmen Miranda that we decided to create a floral headpiece to accompany the look. From conception to completion, this season’s bridal gown passed through the hands of 35 skilled artisans and took up over 10,000 man hours.
Is there a reason why you present one bridal gown at the finale of every show?
TR Closing the season with a bridal look has been a tradition within the couture industry since the ’40s, but it’s also more than that. With the bridal look being the most intricate and complex gown within the collection, the finale is more a celebration of craftsmanship, with the bridal look as the epitome of it.
Tell us about your creative process.
TR Whether designing a runway collection or for a client, the creative process is never uniform. In both cases, there will always be an initial idea or overarching vision, but the design is subject to change as other concepts or sources of inspiration and materials are explored.
With clients specifically, the designs also adapt as my relationship with each of them grows and evolves. It’s very much a collaborative process when curating a dream design for a client, which is why couture is so special. It really is the only entirely bespoke experience that the client can truly be a part of throughout.
Could you share tips for brides-to-be when choosing the dress of their dreams?
TR Don’t be afraid to listen to your heart—there can be a lot of pressure to look a particular way, but your bridal gown should really reflect you. Don’t forget to prioritise your own comfort—you’ll look even more radiant if you are comfortable and confident in your gown! Try not to let any stress behind the organisation of the wedding overshadow this moment—it’s such a beautiful process that every step of the journey should be enjoyed.
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