Artist Sterling Ruby Takes the Runway

Artist Sterling Ruby Takes the Runway

Contemporary artist Sterling Ruby has traded in his paintbrushes for a sewing machine—at least for now. The artist debuted his ready-to-wear collection at Pitti Uomo in Florence.

Contemporary artist Sterling Ruby has traded in his paintbrushes for a sewing machine—at least for now. The artist debuted his ready-to-wear collection at Pitti Uomo in Florence.

Text: Teddy Willson

Contemporary art is no stranger to high fashion (see: that Prada Marfa sign or Shawn Kolodny’s dripping designer pills), but it’s less often that artists actually become fashion designers. If there’s one person to tackle this barrier, though, then it makes sense that it would be Sterling Ruby. And you shouldn’t be surprised. The multimedia artist has an impressive three decades of clothesmaking under his belt, as well as numerous prestigious fashion collaborations.

Ruby was honored as a special guest designer at this year’s Pitti Uomo, the menswear trade show of all menswear trade shows. Previous honorees include Virgil Abloh, menswear director at Louis Vuitton, who sat front row at Ruby’s show when he debuted his ready-to-wear collection called S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. The line became available online at the same time as his models walked down the runway, embracing the See Now, Buy Now approach.

This collection is certainly not Ruby’s first venture into fashion designing, but it does mark the first time his garments have been made available to the public. Since 2008, Ruby has made countless ensembles reimagining his massive vault of artwork, whether it be his paintings, sculptures, mega collages or quilted textiles. Also on his resume are collaborations with Raf Simons for Dior and Calvin Klein. Simons is an avid collector and close friend of Ruby’s.

Like much of his artwork, S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. is thoroughly inspired by Ruby’s childhood and journey ever since. Ruby was born in Germany but grew up among the Dutch community, first in Baltimore, then in New Freedom, PA., an Amish locale.

This aspect of home is responsible for the conservative, Amish-looking dresses seen on the runway. The cover of “Hex,” a 1972 book about murder in his childhood community, adorned the front of a torn-up, acid-washed, neon green garment. Photos of candles, taken by his photographer wife Melanie Schiff, were pasted on a floor-length dress, sweat suit and tote bag. Quilted ponchos kept the Dutch spirit alive, and paint-splattered pieces created a sort of organized chaos.

Needless to say, Ruby left Pitti Uomo with quite the impression in his wake. The irony of it all, however, is that while Ruby was off stewarding his first fashion show in Italy, the most reputable art show of all, Art Basel, was taking place at its home base in Switzerland. No doubt Ruby has already paved a career of success in the contemporary art world. Now, the question is, will he do the same in the fashion world? To be the judge of that, view some pieces from Ruby’s S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA. collection in the slideshow below.

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