Three years ago, Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby presented an exhibition at London’s Sprüth Magers Gallery entitled Work Wear. The objects in the show were largely tangential consequences of making art; on display were the bleach stained jeans, shirts, and sweatshirts he wore while creating the urethane sculptures and spray-painted canvases that have made him famous. In a 2016 interview, following the Sprüth Magers show, the artist told 032c, “I would say 90 percent of what I wear is what we make in the studio.” With this in mind, it seems a fashion line from Ruby has long been a probability.
When Pitti Immagine Uomo announced last year that Ruby would be participating in the 96th edition of the event, debuting an independent fashion collection, many questions about the project arose. Last week, curiosity was quelled as the artist unveiled the collection in Florence, under the name S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA., in Le Pagliere, a hay storage facility built in the 19th century. Several eminent industry figures were present in support of Ruby, including long-time collaborator Raf Simons, stylist Olivier Rizzo, photographer Willy Vanderperre, and designer Virgil Abloh.
S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. is the umbrella label under which four different collections operate – S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. is the main line; ED. 50 creates limited pieces in editions of 50; SOTO, which are clothes made with fabric handcrafted by Sterling Ruby Studio; and UNIQUE, one-of-a-kind pieces designed by Ruby. Rather than utilising a backdrop made up of his own artwork, as Simons did for several seasons at Calvin Klein, Ruby went for a rather minimal stage, with simple benches and plumes of smoke suspended in the air.
Ruby sought inspiration from diverse aspects of his life, with several of the garments on show possessing similarities to his artworks, including the vivid acid-washed prints from his bleach-collaged soft sculptures and canvases, an American flag print inside candle-shaped silhouettes, the monsters of his sculptural work turned into a print; and the playful fringing that appears frequently in his installations.
Although a lot of the show comprised of his bleach covered workwear, Ruby also introduced many new elements. Amish-influenced dresses created in plaid were a nod to his childhood in pastoral Pennsylvania, hefty knitwear and coats adorned with crossing lines referenced the yarn in his artwork, and Melanie Schiff, Ruby’s partner, supplied photographs of candles and weeds that were reinterpreted as prints.
Of course, Ruby isn’t exactly new to the fashion world – he notably started sewing at the age of 13, and made his debut at Couture Week F/W12, collaborating with Simons on his first offering for Dior. Their creative relationship outlasted Simons’ time at the French house, and the pair continued to collaborate on Raf’s eponymous label as well as Calvin Klein 205W39NYC. In saying this, S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. clearly marks a new chapter in Ruby’s autonomous practice, and we’re intrigued to see more.
Feature image: Sterling Ruby, SP30, 2008 (via Sotheby’s)