Tamara Ralph on parenthood, power-dressing and partnering with Audemars Piguet

Haute couture designer explains how relaunch of namesake brand came about after her Ralph & Russo departure

Haute couture designer Tamara Ralph relaunched her eponymous brand at the end of 2023. Photo: Tamara Ralph
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Tamara Ralph is a woman on a mission. The designer and founder of her eponymous brand, which she relaunched six months ago, has already received overwhelmingly positive feedback from clients who are captivated by her powerful yet feminine designs.

“It’s been incredible to have relaunched under my new name,” she says following her spring/summer 2024 haute couture show in Paris. “It was very much something that I was going to do, but obviously, I didn’t plan on doing it as fast, and it just kind of happened because I was receiving so many calls from clients wanting me to start designing for them again.”

Ralph, who was previously one-half of the luxury brand Ralph & Russo, embarked on this new chapter after parting ways with her former partner, Michael Russo, last year.

While Russo ran the business side, Ralph was always the creative force and was determined to reignite that spark of creativity, albeit with extra determination and strength. “It’s been emotional, tiring, exciting and very busy,” says Ralph, whose comeback show took place in Paris in October, with a follow-up showcasing the spring/summer 2024 haute couture collection earlier this year.

The SS24 collection was a further expression of the designer’s vision for the brand, which places a strong emphasis on female versatility.

“The collection is very much an extension of this feeling of feminine strength, which was really a starting point for me when I relaunched with the first collection last season so that was a continuing theme,” she says. “There were a lot of metal pieces that not only highlight the craftsmanship of the house, but are also symbolic of feminine strength that is a building block for the brand and my inspiration.”

The strength Ralph refers to has been fortified by her journey into motherhood, with her daughter Haliya, three, and a second baby girl on the way. “It definitely changed me, as it does everyone when they have kids,” Ralph says of motherhood. “It really gives you a new sense of purpose in life and it also gave me a strength I really didn’t know I had.”

Her daughter inspired her to imbue her brand with the values of strength and femininity, driving her vision forward. “I want to be an example for her and be strong for her, and that was one of the main things that gave me the motivation and strength to relaunch,” she says.

Growing up in a family of couturiers spanning generations, Australia-born Ralph spent her childhood at her mother’s atelier, watching her work and immersing herself in the world of fashion design from a young age. She hopes her daughters will embrace this experience just as she did.

“Haliya gets quite involved in the whole process,” Ralph says. “She comes to all the model castings, she’s started to be quite bossy as well, telling people what to do, she’s at every show, and she also likes to get involved in the creative process, which is really lovely because it reminds me of when I was young and I loved watching my mother create and design.

“Having another daughter on the way has given me a whole new strength, and having them involved in the process is incredibly important to me.”

This season marked a significant milestone for the brand, which partnered with luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet on a collection of timepieces. The two-way collaboration saw Ralph not only create a limited collection of watches but also take inspiration from the Swiss watchmaker when designing her line’s garments.

“The two houses coming together was quite special because we have so much in common but obviously are in completely different fields,” she says of the partnership. “So, when I looked at the collection, I really wanted to showcase the craftsmanship of both houses and highlight that, but from a very modern perspective. I wanted to play with the notion of time in the collection as well.”

With this in mind, for her haute couture designs, Ralph incorporated a variety of metalwork in different tones. She juxtaposed contrasting colours and textures with soft, feminine tones accented by vibrant hints. “It was very much a fusion of craftsmanship, timelessness and feminine strength.”

The watches in the Audemars Piguet capsule likewise highlight the craftsmanship that is critical to both brands, as well as a bold sense of femininity, which is synonymous with Ralph’s brand but also perhaps significant as the watchmaker has recently appointed its first female chief executive. Having taken over earlier this year, Ilaria Resta is set to bring a new dimension to the brand, which is known for its daring yet timeless approach to watchmaking.

“Coming from a perspective that wasn’t in the watchmaking world brought a different point of view to the brand, which they loved, and so pushing them in a different creative direction and pushing myself as a creative to think outside the box and create something I had never done before was a great kind of collaboration.

“They are a great brand to work with, and they really can recognize talent, and they collaborate with people or artists or celebrities or brands that will bring a different kind of view, and that’s amazing.”

Ralph is preparing for two significant moments in her life. The first is her autumn/winter 2024 haute couture collection. The second is the arrival of her second child, which, although a blessing, will certainly add to her already busy schedule.

“I think it’s difficult, as all women who are trying to balance motherhood and work will experience. This pregnancy has gone very fast because it’s been so busy with the new brand and everything, and so it’s been difficult to find the time… and then dedicate it to work. But also, it’s just a case of making sure that you segregate work and family.

“I work between Paris and London, but we live in Monaco, which also helps to segregate my family and work time. Trying to include my daughter in it is very nice, and that’s how I try to maintain my balance by having her involved.”

Ralph has had an eventful year to date, with even more exciting moments on the horizon for the remainder of it and the year following.

“We are concentrating on the launch with Audemars Piguet, with several events around the world… Then, obviously, the new collection that we’re working on and then being a mother again, and so I think it’s already a very busy year and we have a few exciting projects in the world for next year as well.”

And hopefully, a break in between? “Yes, hopefully,” she laughs.

Updated: May 25, 2024, 6:59 AM