You launched Ralph & Russo in 2007, tell us about how you formed your partnership, how did you first meet?
Michael Russo: Tamara and I quite literally bumped into each other on the King’s Road in London and started talking, naturally bonding over our native accents. I had just sold a business in London and Tamara was visiting for the first time to explore Europe. We immediately connected through our shared drive and determination, and began working together very quickly. In those early days, we didn’t have any fashion contacts within London and though the brand was established in 2007, we spent the first few years strategizing and thoroughly researching where we wanted to position ourselves within the luxury market, ahead of our official launch in 2010.
Why did you decide to completely focus on Couture?
Tamara Ralph: The creative boundaries of couture are limitless and allow for creative visions to become a reality. The quality, craftsmanship and creativity involved in the couture process is a celebration of artistry, and we look to incorporate these elements into all of our product categories.
How did you get into fashion design? Where did you study?
Tamara Ralph: I was born into a creative family with four generations of couturiers, so fashion and design have had a huge impact on my life from a young age. I started exploring my mother’s pattern archive and creating pieces when I was still at school,
and I later went on to study at the Whitehouse Institute of Design in Sydney.
What were you both doing before you created Ralph & Russo?
Michael Russo: Previously, I worked across banking and business consultancy, whilst Tamara was creating custom pieces and gaining clients through word of mouth in Australia. With her talent and my business background, starting a brand together seemed almost inevitable.
What’s the longest time it’s taken to create a couture gown?
Tamara Ralph: In the past we have created gowns that have taken over a year to complete! As each look is entirely hand crafted, it completely depends on the style and intricacy of the gown. Each look is also subject to a series of fittings throughout the creative process which can often lead to amendments and the evolution of the design.
What’s the most embellishments you have ever used on a gown?
Tamara Ralph: The bridal gown from our Autumn/Winter 2017 collection is definitely a contender! We created a crystal chainmail corset as the foundation, and each crystal was hand stitched together. This was then overlaid with Chantilly lace and embellished with 1000 Swarovski Crystals, silk thread work flowers, gold satin heart-shaped sequins and pearlescent micro beads. It took over 8000 hours to fully hand embroider and was worked upon by over 100 of our skilled artisans.
What inspired your most recent collection?
Tamara Ralph: The Autumn Winter 2018/2019 couture collection drew inspiration from the style icon Jacqueline de Ribes, a vivacious, graceful woman; a true femme du monde who celebrated vibrant tones and style in relation to personality.
One of your favourite gowns you have ever created?
Tamara Ralph: It’s so hard to choose just one! At the moment I’d have to say the fluorescent pink, yellow and aqua striped chiffon kaftan gown from our most recent couture collection. The movement of the chiffon is so ethereal, though I mostly love how this is offset by vibrant colour blocking and jewel encrusted cuffs, modernising the whole look.
Tamara Ralph: ‘Many of our materials are sourced from France, Italy and Switzerland, though we do also source from other countries such as Austria for Swarovski’.
Some of the difficulties and setbacks you have experienced?
Michael Russo: Every start up brand encounters difficulties, but it’s the way you approach these difficulties that defines the way your brand learns from them. We founded Ralph & Russo with the customer in mind; their needs are paramount to us and this approach ensures that we are creating something that we believe in, as do they. In today’s climate the need to adapt will challenge luxury brands globally; the age of ‘arrogant luxury’ is over, the customer comes first’.
You have dressed an incredible array of A-list women from Beyonce and Angelina Jolie, is there anyone else you would still like to dress?
Tamara Ralph: There are so many women that we find inspirational and hope to dress in the future, it’s hard to name just a few! Each woman that we aspire to dress is a leader in their field and encompasses the core qualities of the Ralph & Russo muse; elegance and confidence, they are the empowered women of today.
Tamara, you are originally from Sydney, Australia – do you get back home much in between your busy work schedule?
Tamara Ralph: Of course, it’s important to me that I make time to get back to Australia for family occasions. Though both Michael’s family and mine always travel to Paris for our shows, so we feel very fortunate that we are able to spend that time together.
A favourite holiday destination you both like to take just to unwind?
Michael Russo: The Maldives is the perfect place for us to relax and switch off for a few days. It really is idyllic, and with so many islands to choose from, the chances of bumping into anyone you know are very slim!.