Still, Rucci's highly anticipated Tuesday night comeback -- well-attended by celebrities from Martha Stewart to Linda Fargo, director of women's fashion at Bergdorf Goodman -- was immaculate.
Except for one sand-colored gown screen-printed with blown-out pictures of Pina Bausch and another with images of a Richard Serra sculpture, the palette is all black. Rucci said he chose black on Italian fabric because he saw it as a base to create a new body of work.
"I wanted this to be a template," Rucci said.
The collection debuted with a two-hour presentation at the Mercantile Annex in Hell's Kitchen. The space's stark white walls were a perfect backdrop for Rucci's sharp silhouettes. And Rucci, who in addition to rebuilding his clothing business is also actively designing furniture and painting, hung seven pieces of his oil-on-canvas series he calls, "The Arrival."
The collection comprises seven pieces of outerwear that include sable shrugs and full-length wool crepe coats trimmed in the luxurious fur. One ¾-length coat with a muff and two sable tiers along the hemline was quite divine.
As expected RR331 didn't take any shortcuts in decadence of details. Sprinkled into the mix are a few sheaths laced with the designer's signature suspended cutouts.
A long-sleeve black gown fashioned from hammered satin with artful tucks along the skirt had photographers lusting all night. I couldn't help but think, "This dress would be perfect for Meryl Streep." But my ultimate favorite was a velvet pantsuit -- cozy opulence at its best.
Accessories included visor hats by famed British milliner Philip Treacy and over-the-knee boots in stretch suede and satin by Jean Michel Cazabat.
"The clothes are an evolved conception of what I started three decades ago," Rucci said. "My desire is to create something of strength, something that empowers a woman and most importantly, something she desires."
RR331 will be available on a made-to-order basis with prices available on request. On Wednesday Anna Cleveland of Cherry Hill, Rucci's fit model and current muse, will be photographed for the look book. (Cleveland is also the daughter of legendary black model Pat Cleveland.)
Since the 1980s, Rucci sat at the helm of one of the world's most revered fashion houses, Chado Ralph Rucci, named so for the Japanese Tea Ceremony. In 2011 Rucci went into business with billionaire investors Howard and Nancy Marks. He left the brand in 2014 after designing its spring 2015 collection. On Sunday the Markses debuted their fall 2016 collection, Sies Marjan.
Many in the industry anticipated his return, and RR331 – he chose the numbers 331 after the number of steps in the tea ceremony – did not disappoint.
"I think this collection is gorgeous," said Ken Downing, fashion director and senior vice president of Neiman Marcus stores. "It's so exciting that Ralph is back in the game because he brings with him such a beautiful elegance.
A half hour into the presentation, The Annex was packed with many of the industry's most respected and recognized faces, including retired editor of Women's Wear Daily, Etta Froio; Pulitizer Prize winning fashion critic Robin Givhan; and editors from InStyle and Elle magazine. RuPaul, one of America's first famous drag queens, also stopped by the champagne-filled event for a few minutes.
The timing was perfect as many visited before dashing to the runway show of Narcisco Rodriguez – we know him best for creating Michelle Obama's bold yellow frock she wore at the State of the Union Address -- that was taking place directly across the street.
The Philadelphia contingent included Laurie McGahey and Louise Feder of the Michener Museum, as well as Emil DeJohn, fashion professor at The Art Institute of Philadelphia and longtime friend of Rucci.