“I was born to a family with four generations of couturiers and have been designing since I can remember,” reminisces Tamara Ralph. “My grandmother was always especially strict and would have me unpick an entire piece if one stitch was wrong – I think it was her way of triumphing over for me for the years of raiding her pattern archive!” she laughs. And its little surprise that couture literally runs through Tamara Ralph’s veins. One half of the only London-based couture label to be recognised by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in almost a century, Tamara Ralph is globally renowned as the visionary couturier behind the massively successful, privately-owned British luxury label, Ralph & Russo.
Tamara Ralph is a fourth generation couturier
Tamara’s story is nothing short of a real-life fairytale. On holiday in London, the young couturier bumped into a dashing Aussie, Michael Russo. The two immediately bonded over their native accents and a short while later, Tamara followed her heart to London and started up the Ralph & Russo brand, choosing Michael as both her life and business partner. “Building a brand with Michael has been both a pleasure and a dream come true,” says Tamara. “We’d both always shared the same vision of building a luxury brand, and with Michael spearheading the business side of the company and I the creative, our partnership couldn’t be better balanced. We took a real leap of faith and are in the privileged position now to say that it was the best choice that we could have made.”
Backstage at the Ralph & Russo Haute Couture show in Paris
Isabella Lombardini & Leica Camera
Ralph & Russo’s ascent since its inception in 2010 has been positively legendary. For starters, the brand’s intrepid choice of starting up a couture label in London has allowed it to set itself apart in remarkable fashion. London, once home to world-famous couturiers such as Hardy Armies and Norman Hartnell, had all but lost the tradition of haute couture due to unprecedented economic and societal shifts, that is until Ralph & Russo came along. “We felt there was a real gap in the market in London for couture,” explains Tamara when asked why they chose to start Ralph & Russo out of their hometown over the more traditional choice of Paris. “Paris had in many ways become too saturated by couture brands and clients were more frequently in London than Paris, making it inconvenient to travel specifically to source their own couture. Meanwhile London had continued to develop as a creative and commercial hub, drawing international footfall and giving rise to a luxury clientele in want of personalised couture.” And it was this visionary approach to service and authenticity coupled with immaculate multi-generational couture savoir-faire that allowed Ralph & Russo to receive the highest of accolades in the world of haute couture in 2014: an invitation by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in Paris to show their collections as part of the official Couture Week schedule. “I’m still not sure I can describe the feeling!” states Tamara when asked on how it felt to be acknowledged by the ultimate authority in the realm of haute couture. “There is nothing more rewarding as a designer to have your talent recognised by such industry masters and showcased on an international stage.”
Ralph & Russo SS20 RTW Moodboard
Ralph & Russo
And the brand has continued to amass global recognition, growing from its pared-back beginnings to bringing on board more skilled workers than Dior to cater to its burgeoning clientele. Couture is, after all, the most elite category within fashion, known for employing delicate traditional techniques and artisanal skills to create one-of-a-kind creations that are almost entirely done by hand. Perhaps it’s the brand’s British roots, or perhaps it stems from Michael and Tamara’s Australian origins, but Ralph & Russo has somehow maintained a uniquely amicable, down-to-earth approach to haute couture which has only served to broaden the brand’s appeal; cementing its position as a firm favourite amongst celebrities, royalty and VIPs who regularly turn to the brand when commemorating their most important occasions. “The red carpet has always been important to us as a celebration of excellence and as an opportunity for women to feel their most beautiful,” explains Tamara. And her favourite Ralph & Russo red carpet moment? “We have had the pleasure of working with such inspirational women, from political leaders and royalty, to businesswomen, artists and celebrities. It would be impossible for me to pinpoint one appearance as the ultimate red carpet moment,” says Tamara graciously.
Meghan Markle famously wore a Ralph & Russo haute couture gown for her official engagement shoot
In 2017, Ralph & Russo launched their first-ever ready-to-wear collection, extending the brand’s highly-acclaimed ethos and perspective to cater to the everyday needs of its devoted clientele. “All of our product categories embody the same brand values and level of quality,” describes Tamara. The difference between her couture line and ready-to-wear line? “The detail behind couture and ready-to-wear is incomparable. Where a ready-to-wear piece may pass through the hands of five artisans before reaching production, a couture piece can be worked on by twenty or more specialists at any given time.”
In 2019, Ralph & Russo took Paris Fashion Week by storm when they pulled all the stops to showcase their Miami-beach inspired Spring/Summer 20 collection as part of the ready-to-wear schedule. “Showing at Paris Fashion Week for SS20 was in many ways like a relaunch of our ready-to-wear category for the brand and we will continue to show there for the foreseeable”.
Backstage at the Ralph & Russo SS20 RTW show at Paris Fashion Week
Ralph & Russo
From London to Paris and from couture to ready-to-wear, Ralph & Russo have eloquently accumulated a loyal fan base within every arena that they have ventured into. A remarkable feat given the global economic climate in which they launched their label in 2010. And they are showing no signs of slowing down; the dynamic duo have been working meticulously to realise their dream of converting the Ralph & Russo brand into a global luxury powerhouse with a physical presence in key fashion capitals. En route to attaining their dream, Michael and Tamara inaugurated their UAE flagship boutique at The Dubai Mall in 2018. “Our Middle Eastern clientele are also all such warm people. I have always loved how welcoming and family orientated they are. So many of our clients have become true friends and even family,” says Tamara of her regional clientele. “Opening in Dubai was such a special moment for us. We’ve always received such incredible support from the region and we really wanted to return this favour to our followers by opening our first flagship in Dubai Mall.”
Ralph & Russo's flagship boutique at The Dubai Mall
Ralph & Russo
So what can Ralph & Russo fans expect in the future? “We’ve always had the vision of building a global luxury brand and in the years to come we will be taking huge strides towards that,” reveals Tamara. “We would like to one day have our brand encompass not only couture, ready-to-wear and accessories, but also beauty, interiors, and more. We want to curate a Ralph & Russo lifestyle for our clients so that the brand continues to be an element of their daily lives.” A complete Ralph & Russo lifestyle? Sounds like music to our ears.