Ruffian Spring 2013 Show — An Ode To Toile
Since the 16th century, toile du Jouy, or simply “toile,” has held a special place in design and fashion. Inspired by the colored print cottons of India, toile became a hot commodity once the French and English lifted the ban on cotton, despite its negative impact on the the sales of costlier local materials like silk and wool. Plus, since it was already being smuggled in by the Portuguese, the British and French figured they might as well get a cut of the cloth — literally. Its advantages, from durability to cost, could not be heeded and has and soon the material was being used for everything from wall coverings to furniture and clothing. Even in its raw form, toile (which we simply refer to as “muslin” in the United States) is used to create patterns. But at it’s most grand, toile is stunning and ornate, aspirational, romantic and sometimes provocative. The impressively detailed vignettes printed on toile do more than provide an aesthetic thrill — they tell stories of eras past. Sometimes, they illustrate the pastoral experience of a quaint French town; in other instances, they adorn a home with delicate freesia and willow patterns that speak to the aesthetic of that particular space and time.
The Ruffian SS13 “Toile” collection, then, aimed to explore how the beauty and function of toile continues to weave into the fabric of modern fashion. Designers and partners Brian Wok and Claude Morais paired the elegance toile has furnished in French couture with the minimalist form of American sportswear. This juxtaposition was further filtered through the lens of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the neighborhood they call home, for a tongue-in-cheek wink to a neighborhood that has become synonymous with artsy hipsters.
In the spirit of German-born Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, considered the father of French toile, Brian and Claude aspired to create a design that was unique to their story. So, while Oberkampf crated “Les Traveaux de la Manufacture” as an homage to his toile factory and the town of Jouy, the Ruffian boys snapped photos of their Bedford Avenue neighborhood and collaborated with New York-based artist John Gordon Gauld to create the vignettes seen in their original toile fabrics. What they created were truly darling still life snapshots capturing the quirky innocence, the mom-and-pop charm of Williamsburg, nestled in a skyscraper metropolis that doesn’t seem so ominous after all.
But as the boys say, “The Ruffian woman is bold. She has a sense of history. She’s a little bit irreverent. She’s a good girl that’s gone on a little bit bad.” And that’s just what they evoked in their Spring 2013 collection, highlighting the DIY quality of the crafty Williamsburg girl, speaking to her love of vintage via the use of iridescent silk brocades, while applauding her edginess and her irreverence through the incorporation of motorcycle pants, boy shorts and graphic tees. The toile appeared in a wide array of options from corsets to halter dresses, ruffled blouses and painter pants. These baroque influences were tempered by the ticking stripe fabric manipulated into similar shapes, allowing any women to enjoy the fun of mixing and matching patterns, making a look all her own. Similarly, the Converse kicks with which the looks were paired added a hipster-y vibe.
Despite the aristocratic connections toile had in the past (Marie Antoinette was a rabid fan), this collection felt accessible, young, and hip, exuding a relaxed coolness. It was improvised, kittenish, and carefree – an impressive contrast to the dark, enigmatic, English femme fatale that inspired Ruffian’s FW 2012 collection. But, in the details, they brought posh feminine style with a dash of masculine working man toughness, creating the delicate balance women yearn. — STORY BY CONTRIBUTING EDITOR IZZY RUIZ