In 2019, after numerous high-profile collaborations with fashion designers, the artist Sterling Ruby decided to strike it out on his own and launch a ready-to-wear brand, which he called S.R. Studio.
It’s been a successful pivot for the 49-year-old artist, whose designs straddle the line between bespoke fashion and bespoke art. Fast forward a couple of years and Ruby is fresh off the debut of his first haute couture collection at Paris Couture Week—the first American invited to the prestigious program since 2009.
“I’m not suggesting I’m doing a traditional couture collection,” Ruby told after the collection debuted. “But I relate to the hand and craft of it. Even outside of this collection, we are in the same room making painting, sculpture, and ceramics, so the atelier part of it makes sense to me. I kept thinking about couture as the idea of touch and soul, and what it would mean to a 25-year-old.”
For those who know Ruby’s artistic output, S.R.’s newest collection, titled “Apparitions,” will look familiar. It’s as if the artist’s soft sculptures, or his gestural, layered paintings, were cut up and reassembled into womens’ clothing. In fact, that’s not far from the case: Much of Ruby’s fabric is hand-dyed, enzyme-rinsed, or printed with images shot by his wife, photographer Melanie Schiff—all techniques he’s used in his art.
The tattered, draping silhouettes are meant to evoke the puritanical outfits of colonial America, and are juxtaposed against “uniforms of modern America,” such as skate and business wear, according to the press release.
“I looked at American clothes, at colonial dresses, which for me are inextricable from colonialism, neocolonialism, and religious persecution,” Ruby said in an interview with Highsnobiety. “It’s a response to the history of the United States, the current political climate, the Trump administration, and the ongoing threat of far-right anger.”
The collection debuted in the form of a Zoom video. Models donning S.R. designs floated over footage of an abandoned paintball park shot on the last day of Trump’s presidency. The grimy, splattered patterns of the park’s landscape echo Ruby’s graphic fabrics, while its crumbling cement barricade recall the artist’s own post-industrial sculpture.
S.R. Studio’s collection will be made available through wholesale partners in the coming weeks, with all pieces cut-to-order. Prices will likely begin at $15,000, the Financial Times reported in a profile of Ruby last month. Until now, his one-of-a-kind fashions “have, for the most part, been collected by institutions,” the artist told the paper. “Some pieces have been acquired by people who are also art collectors. So they see it as the equivalent of an artwork.”
See more designs from S.R. Studio’s new collection below: