The Aesthete

Still Standing

Fashion heavyweight Ralph Rucci reflects on life's lessons while living in the ring

by Adrian Mainella film Baldomero Fernandez

Designer Ralph Rucci is, quite possibly, the closest thing American fashion has to a couturier. In a country where sportswear reigns, Rucci's ultra-feminine and sophisticated designs marry architectural detail and old-world artistry in a way only a true aesthete can appreciate.
In the three decades since Rucci started in the business (he studied under Halston), he has been invited to show at Paris Couture and still tirelessly turns out some of America’s most beautifully designed clothing. The Aesthete had a chance to sit down with Rucci and talk about his ups and downs and how endurance is something he knows oh-too-well. 

Adrian Mainella: I box because…

Ralph Rucci: I box because it allows me to feel more in touch with my masculine self. It allows me to breathe easier and eliminate the anxiety under the breath.

AM: I design because…

RR: I design because I knew that I was called upon to contribute to this profession but I haven’t even fully hit everything I'm meant to say.

AM: I’m wiser because…

RR: I'm wiser because I experienced enormous hardship… so that I could experience such personal gratification.

AM: […] I live in New York because…

RR: I live in New York because it’s the center of the universe. […] We experience utmost freedom here. You don’t understand the full extent of that until you travel in the world and you get back to New York and you want to kiss the ground. There’s a juxtaposition always of the most extraordinary with the most base. And I love the anonymity

AM: What do you see when you walk into the gym?

RR: I see almost this invisible intensity.

AM: And when you walk into the ring?

RR: When I walk into the ring, there’s a certain high because there’s a combination of intimidation […] There’s this excitement. There’s this high. There’s this expectation: how well will I do? There’s a moment where your lungs don’t think they can continue any longer. Your arms might be able to stay up but your lungs are giving out a bit and when you cross that line, that’s when you’re high.

AM: What is it like to stare your opponent in the eye?

RR: It's a solitary, individual act. You set (almost) a level of strength and intimidation. You go into their body through their eyes. Before then you begin the physical exertion, you’re already inside of them. Possibly, unconsciously, they’re going to be a little intimidated of you.

AM: Where are the similarities between a designer and a boxer?

RR: The skin I had to grow and the pacing and the breath control and the physical exertion I had to weather to get anywhere in this profession. […] Endurance in both boxing and in fashion has to do with your capacity of patience… . Trying to let go of expectations on your terms and trying to move, and accept them on another level. But so many people want to talk about my story, talk about my endurance while I'm living it. I don’t see that. So I guess my endurance level is inhuman as the story reads, but if I had to be conscious of that, while I was living it, perhaps I would have cracked. So you just keep on going.


This is the first in a series called “Transcendence”, examining the lives of an aesthete and their dedication, passion and intensity for something other than what they are known for.