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Over the past twenty years of his multifaceted practice, internationally acclaimed American artist Sterling Ruby has delighted in the duality between art and fashion. Throughout his personal practice, many of his works have integrated textile and reworked fabrics, reflecting the artist’s sincere interest in materials and their expressive potential. S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. is a collection of not only clothing and accessories - but also ideas, concepts, and a culmination of almost a decade of textile and garment exploration through art. The brand premiered as Special Guest of Pitti Immagine Uomo no. 96 in Florence, Italy in June 2019 and today revolves around the handcraft of Sterling Ruby and his studio to create notable identities within each of its pieces. One-of-a-kind garments are constructed with hand-worked fabrics, images shot by Ruby’s wife Melanie Schiff create placement prints and original collages by Ruby are heat-transferred by hand in his Los Angeles studio.
Inspired by the patchworked craft that is reminiscent of Sterling Ruby’s upbringing in rural Pennsylvania to the signature paint-splattered denim workwear that invites us inside his studio, we wanted to learn more about Ruby’s inspiration and intention for the collection. To celebrate the launch of the S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. - COUTURE 2021 trunk show at LN-CC, the pioneer talked us through his latest collection over email, describing the synergy between contemporary art and couture fashion, as well as his personal experiences which have greatly influenced the ethos of S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA.
What is your connection to haute couture and the concept of couture?
S RUBY: I think that conversation is really broad. Sometimes people don't realize how parallel the fashion industry is with the art world. The history and principles of couture are that it's the highest form of fashion, so to speak. So, it made sense to me to think about it in the same vein that I do contemporary art. There seem to be these shifting sands: generationally speaking — how is couture, how is contemporary art — perceived by a 25-year-old? That has influenced the approach. Sometimes I worry that these two things, art and fashion, are only for a particular audience. That's something that I've really been thinking about lately.
What are the inspirations and references behind the clothes?
S RUBY: I looked at American clothes, at colonial dresses, which for me are inextricable from colonialism, neocolonialism, and religious persecution. It’s a response to the history of the United States, the current political climate, the Trump administration, and the ongoing threat of far-right anger. I was also thinking about the history of American dressing through the trajectory of Hollywood, specifically film noir. For hair and makeup inspiration, we referenced a lot of stills from neo-noir movies to extend the other-worldly story we are telling.
There is volume. Light and heavyweight fabrics, the sheer versus the opaque, the body conscious versus an oversized, structural silhouette. I’m not so hung up on gender specificity, instead I get entrenched in persona, sexuality, and the performative nature of what I make.
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in a predominantly white and conservative area, I first came to understand clothing and style as an attitude, a gender-specific code not to break. Sewing was understood as “women’s work” so constructing my own clothes was a form of transgressing normative gender roles in the area. And I do believe there's a continuation of what was started at Pitti. It still feels autobiographical to me. We’ve been working on this through some crazy times in general in the world, and especially in America. So we exaggerated, to a different extreme. And it still has my identity. I don't think we changed our approach because it was labelled "couture."
The S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. collection is available to pre-order at LN-CC.com until 12th February and products will be delivered to LN-CC within 4-6 months. All trunk show pieces are made-to-order and therefore all sales are final. To be able to shop the trunk show please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.