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Even though he’s worked with Raf Simons at Calvin Klein and runs his own brand, SR. STUDIO. LA. CA., Sterling Ruby is perhaps still known primarily for his art: multidisciplinary work that often deals in dripping urethane sculptures, illusory canvases, and handmade ceramics. But on the heels of his Paris haute couture presentation in February over zoom, Ruby is becoming a force in the industry. So much so, that editor at large Tim Blanks asks him whether he would like to become a certifiable “fashion tycoon” in the near future.
On the latest edition of the BoF podcast, Blanks sits down with Ruby to talk about fashion, Ruby’s future, and the blurred boundaries between his art and his clothes.
Ruby’s work is distinctly American, drawing on the nation’s history of puritanism and violence, wickedness and hope. That was present in his work with Raf Simons at Calvin Klein, and still reverberates through it today. “I always walked away feeling like I’d seen an echo of Stephen king or something. It was a very particular view of America,” Blanks said.
When asked to present at Paris haute couture week, Ruby and his team were skeptical about how they fit into the implied status, standards, and rules of couture. “We decided to kind of think about couture as our version of something made by hand.” Ruby said. “Maybe it was unique, maybe it was something that was strictly made in the studio, and that’s how it kind of came about. We justified it by kind of thinking that this is our version of couture.”
Ruby’s interest in fashion traces back to his youth in the conservative town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania, where dressing became a form of both rebellion and therapy.”I was very obsessed with clothes when I was thirteen, and the kind of power of clothes, and interrogation you would get because you were wearing something very particular in an environment where you weren’t supposed to, and I love that,” Ruby said. “I just didn’t realise that’s probably what the heart of fashion is.”
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