The renowned multimedia artist, Sterling Ruby, launched his first unisex ready-to-wear collection in Florence, Italy this past June. He was the special guest at Pitti Uomo presenting his fashion label S.R. Studio. LA. CA. on the runway. Four small collections operate under his label: the main line, ED. 50 which garments are produced in limited editions of 50 pieces, SOTO (named after his studio’s street) consisting of fabric handmade at his warehouse, and UNIQUE which are one-of-a-kind garments made by the artist himself.
Ruby is widely known for his installation pieces consisting of paintings, ceramic sculptures, video, photography, collage and textiles. The collection embodies his previous artworks as well as the process of experimentation on recycled textiles. “I’ve always been interested in the behavioral power that comes with clothing,” he said in a press release. “For years I have been privately exploring garments as a medium, as something that impacts the way one can think, feel, and move. I couldn’t be more excited to finally put my clothing out into the world.”
Ruby’s collection stemmed from the functional work wear he created for his studio employees, consisting of all-denim button down shirts and a pair of jeans. This was associated as studio camouflage made out of pieces of scraps and fabrics used in his textile projects. The garments became pieces of artwork that underwent the same treatment and manipulation as his canvases did.
Coming from a family of seamstresses, Ruby experimented with a sewing machine at the age of twelve. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, he was influenced by the quilts made by the Amish community and begun experimenting with patching textiles. Ruby was also influenced by the punk rock concerts in D.C. when he lived in Baltimore. His experience working at construction sites in the capital while enduring manual labor is embodied in the utilitarian aesthetic of the American work wear in his collection. These influences can be seen on the Amish-looking dresses and the Slayer tattoo printed on the back of a coat in his collection. Denim is prevalent throughout the collection symbolizing the utilitarian clothing of the long days on dirty jobs with harsh weather endured by the American blue-collar worker.
The collection consists of mostly bleached-sprayed and acid-washed denim wear, ponchos, buttoned shirts, digital printed dresses, oversized bags and sweaters, and splattered jackets, reminiscent of his artwork. On the runway, the models carried hammers, axes and farming tools as accessories thus adding to the deep-rooted American rural aesthetic. The collection is an autobiographical journey to his influences and references since childhood as well as the continuation of the narrative of his artwork.
This is not the first time the L.A. based artist has emerged in the fashion industry. He has been a longtime collaborator for Raf Simons. They did a cross-pollination between art and fashion in numerous projects during Simons’ time at Christian Dior and Calvin Klein. In a statement he gave to W magazine on his collaboration with Raf Simons' 2014 collection, Ruby said “Everybody was standing up, cheering. At that moment I thought, Fuck being an artist—this is wonderful.”
Photo credit: S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA