Ralph & Russo Rules Christmas Gifting With Money-Can’t-Buy Keys To Its Couture Atelier
How to delight a couture customer during Christmas party season, when every occasion in the calendar is an excuse to wear exquisitely-crafted eveningwear? It’s a conundrum Michael Russo and Tamara Ralph have been considering at Ralph & Russo HQ. This holiday, the Australia-born, Kensington-based couple is gifting clients who spend £50,000 or more one of 20 limited-edition rose-gold keys. “The key itself serves as a personal keepsake which our clients can hold onto forever – a way of marking their purchase and the moment they bought it for,” Ralph tells Vogue of the Key to Couture initiative.
“Simultaneously, the key serves as a way of, quite literally, unlocking the world of couture.” For clients who consider £50,000 a small sum to pay for a dress that has been laboured on by 10 artisans for over 1,000 hours, this is a money-can’t-buy trinket and, indeed, the first personal keepsake to come out of the maison. “It also integrates our clients, both current and new, to the Ralph & Russo world and our family,” Ralph, who is feeling reflective on the eve of the brand’s tenth anniversary, continues. “Our mission has always been for Ralph & Russo to be an accessible, approachable brand. Key to Couture allows couture to be a gift, while experiencing a personalised and exclusive service.”
The Ralph & Russo family is welcoming younger members into the fold each season, owing to the label’s expansion into ready-to-wear, leather goods, accessories, and, most recently, trainers. “We’ve not only diversified our identity as a brand, our clientele has grown to span a variety of backgrounds and ages,” explains Ralph, before sharing the characteristics of the new demographic. “The Ralph & Russo woman is both elegant and feminine; international and a leader in her field; and, most importantly, confident not only in herself, but also in her style choices.”
Are the same clients really sitting on the pre-order list for the Sneaker 4.0 and lusting after an elusive luxury key? Apparently so. “Younger generations are taking a real interest in couture, which I feel stems from a genuine appreciation for the craftsmanship behind it,” says Ralph. “They are also drawn to the sustainable nature of couture, which is meant to be worn and enjoyed for ostensibly a lifetime.” The difference is that 18-25 year olds tend to invest in couture separates to style up or down, rather than full looks. Red-carpet gown + trainers? Yessir. Painstakingly-beaded skirt + T-shirt? You bet. But they all hold the same keepsakes dear.
As the house prepares to celebrate a decade in the business – Ralph is keeping schtum on what the spring/summer 2020 couture show in January holds – the power couple still subscribes to the same belief that Ralph & Russo is about selling a lifestyle. The client list might now include the Duchess of Sussex, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, but, Ralph says, “we pride ourselves on never leaving any relationship at the door of our maison”. Now, wherever they are in the world, they have a key, too.