MIDTOWN — Fashion is always changing, but two of the industry's most celebrated icons are about to become permanent fixtures on Fashion Avenue.
Couture king Ralph Rucci and the late Donald Brooks were officially inducted into the Fashion Walk of Fame Wednesday, joining the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren and Mainbocher as part of the tribute modeled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“Ralph Rucci and Donald Brooks have left a lasting impression on the world of fashion in their extraordinary contributions to design and reverence for materials,” said Barbara Randall, president of the Fashion Center BID, before unveiling the large, bronze plaques which will be embedded in the sidewalks along Seventh Avenue, from 35th to 41st street, later this fall.
The walk, which is the world’s only monument to American fashion, honors New York-based designers who have made “an extraordinary impact on the fashion world” or significantly changed the way Americans dress, said Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, who chaired the selection committee.
This is the first time new names have been added in the past three years.
While not a household name, Rucci has won mass critical acclaim as well as nods from celebs, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Whoopie Goldberg and Martha Stewart.
Hailed as “the first American couturier since Mainbocher," Rucci is known for his opulent fabrics and “obsessive dedication to cut and luxury," which have earned him the honor of being the only American ever to be invited to show at the Paris Haute Couture collections under his own name, according to the BID.
Born in Philadelphia, Rucci began his career in the city at FIT and showed his first collection in 1981 at the famous Westbury Hotel on Wooster Street, which required him wheeling his entire collection on a rack all the way from 71st Street, he recalled.
Since launching his Chado Ralph Rucci line in 1994, he has become a regular fixture on the city's fashion scene. His designs have also been inducted into the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.
"Wow!," said Rucci as he examined the plaque, each of which features an original sketch by the designer as well as a brief description of their contributions to the industry.
Donald Brooks, the second inductee, also spent his formative years in the city, studying at both the Parson’s School of Design and FIT. But instead of showing on runways abroad, Brooks made a name for himself on Broadway stages and the silver screen.
Hailed as “one of the most important designers of the mid-twentieth century,” Brooks, who was raised in Manhattan, began his career as a window decorator at Lord & Taylor, where he quickly caught the eye of the store’s president, who hired him to design a collection for the store.
Brooks launched his own collection in 1965, and soon became widely known for his focus on the large, graphic prints, bold colors and simple silhouettes that defined the era.
Brooks later shifted his focus to the world of the stage, designing costumes for Broadway productions and film, including the movie ‘Star!’ featuring Julie Andrews, for which he made a whopping 3,500 costumes for the cast. He also won an Emmy for his work on the “The Letter,” and was nominated for Oscar and Tony awards.
"Donald created clothing that was uniquely American,” said Gerald Blum, former executive vice president of Lord & Taylor, who accepted the award on behalf of Brooks, who died in 2005 at the age of 77.
The two men join 26 designers who already dot the way, including Diane von Furstenberg, Liz Claiborne, Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Oscar Del La Renta, James Donna Karan, Giorgio Di Sant’ Angelo, Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson, Perry Ellis, Mainbocher and Willi Smith.
Inductees were chosen by a vote of more than 100 industry leaders, who chose from a list of 17 living and 19 dead designers selected by the Fashion Walk of Fame selections committee, Steele said.