Tamara Ralph Makes Her Couture Comeback

8 min read

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Tamara Ralph is back — and the world’s best dressers couldn’t be happier. MOJEH talks independence and new beginnings with Australia’s couture queen, as she continues her own story of empowered femininity where Ralph & Russo left off.

It’s been a tumultuous few years, but Tamara Ralph is back, her designs both on the catwalk and in the spotlight. First hitting the fashion big time as half of fashion duo Ralph & Russo — Tamara took care of the designing while her then-partner both personally and professionally Michael Russo managed the business side — the label became a high-end staple, always hitting the right notes on both red carpets and diplomatic occasions.

But as covid hit and as the couture industry foundered, the weak links were revealed. The Ralph-Russo partnership, the personal side of which had already quietly ended in 2018, broke down, with Russo leaving the company in 2020 and Ralph in 2021. The business collapsed and went into administration, a devastating blow for Tamara who had poured her heart and soul into building a Maison from the ground up. It had been the culmination of her life’s work, from a childhood spent stitching in Sydney to hitting the gold-paved streets of London at the age of 2006, where she hoped her drama-filled formal designs would find an audience that was ready for them, unlike her native Australia where the more casual sensibilities of the time meant she couldn’t find a foothold. The fairytale seemed complete when, having met Australian banker Russo by chance on London’s King’s Road, the pair built the Maison by word of mouth, the quality of Tamara’s designs speaking for themselves and eventually receiving the recognition of her peers by being invited to show in Paris for 14 consecutive seasons. But when it all came crashing down, it seemed that fashion’s dream had died. One might imagine that Tamara would be reluctant to dip a toe back into the world that had so hurt her. So what made her pull the trigger and launch her new, solo brand?

Backstage at Tamara’s inaugural solo show

“Designing and creating is in my blood, it’s my love and passion and I knew I would continue, but this time on my own terms,” she says.“I can never imagine doing anything different. My incredible clients are very loyal and I have stayed close with them over the years. They were constantly asking me when I would launch again, and if I could still design pieces for them. This definitely made me feel supported and also empowered as I worked towards launching the brand.”

Indeed, Tamara’s little black book is a truly impressive thing, with her designs having taken centre stage at events of global importance ranging from the Oscars to the announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement — yes, that US$75,000 sheer dress was a Ralph & Russo. So who were the famous names clamouring to have Ralph back in action? The A-listers and global royalty who rely on her designs for guaranteed elegance and focus-pulling star power include Queen Rania, who wore a delicate yellow confection at the coronation of King Charles III in May, and Lily James who sported an angel/devil one-two with pearl-studded silk at the BAFTAs in February and tough leather at the Met Gala in May, even before Tamara’s first solo show in Paris. The July launch of her AW23/24 designs was the final statement that Ms Ralph was truly back in town. Tamara’s original atelier team is all back together, and she’s working with the same suppliers as during her Ralph & Russo days too — so are we to expect more of the same from this new venture? Tamara says absolutely not.

“My new brand, and debut collection, embodies a total rebirth and is a completely separate entity. My approach to couture and to design has changed with time; I became known for romantic, ethereal designs, and while this is certainly still part of my DNA, my debut collection is imbued with a bolder sense of femininity — soft materials juxtaposed with a more protective quality which is an artistic expression and interpretation of my experience over the past few years. These years — which have been exceptionally difficult — have shaped me enormously. I have learned so much, matured as an individual and as a designer, and overall I have evolved myself.”

A Tamara Ralph Couture AW23 creation

The recent past has indeed been bruising for Tamara, leaving little wonder as to her need for figurative protection in her fashion, where femininity is emphasised against metallic elements, hinting at inner strength and the power innate in womanhood. “Certain details specifically — from the roses encrusted with crystals, to the ornate cages draped in pearls, to the chainmail detailing — very much embody the notion of an armour-like structure; equal parts feminine, but with an emboldened element of strength, and protective inits symbolism,” says Tamara.

And coming from a long line of strong design matriarchs, it’s certain that her collection benefits from the generations of couture that came before her: “Even as a young child, my true passion was design and I knew my dream was to become a designer,” says Tamara. “I come from four generations of couturiers within my family, and so I discovered my passion for couture —and fashion generally — at a very young age. I suppose it was written in the stars from the very beginning. As a child, I was quite taken by my mother’s creativity. I was also very fortunate to be under the expert guidance of my grandmother, who ensured every last detail was created to perfection. She would unpick every stitchI had made, encouraging me to start over and learn from my mistakes; I carry this level of perfectionism and expectation within my craftsmanship with me to this day, and I am forever grateful for her encouragement and the discipline she instilled in me.”

Tamara Ralph designs are intricately embroidered and feature delicate details

Family is a strong theme for Tamara, and in a sweet moment at the end of her inaugural show she walked the runway with her daughter in arms to applause from the gathered fash pack. She had her baby with her partner, British-Indian billionaire tycoon Bhanu Choudhrie, in the midst of covid and the breakdown of the Ralph & Russo brand. Now living between Monaco and London, and relishing her new role, it’s clear that motherhood has brought Tamara some healthy perspective: “Having my daughter Haliya gave me are newed sense of purpose and absolutely gave me the courage to move on,” she gushes. “I gave birth to her during the hardest period of my life, which really led to me finding an inner strength that I didn’t know I had.” So why was it important for her to include Haliya in her eponymous brand’s first catwalk? “She has been instrumental in me launching again and, in many ways, she inspired the collection,”shares Tamara. “I want to be a role model for her, and to in turn inspire her to grow to be an incredibly strong woman as she forges her own path and destiny in life. She also loves to sketch with me and always provides her opinions on her favourite styles. I love involving her asit inspires her.”

So what’s next for Tamara Ralph? Clearly, couture is her destiny. And with her new-found sense of purpose as a mother and as a solo designer, her brand DNA is going from strength to strength. As always, and as expected by her adoring clients, her philosophy includes fashion perfectionism. But there does seem to be a new element in Tamara’s creativity, a fire that’s only just beginning to burn to its full potential.

“The pieces in the new collection come together to form a poetic interpretation of fearless creativity, pushing the boundaries of couture— they are designed to be pieces of art that are cohesive, but that also stand alone and tell their individual stories,” says Tamara. “I truly cannot wait for what is still to come in my life and in my career, but on the other side, I feel like I’m only getting started and there is so much more that, creatively, I have to show.” Explore the collections

A Day in the Life of Tamara Ralph

I start my day…with morning cuddles with my two and a half year old in bed, and — as I normally fast in the morning — I begin with sea minerals and green tea, before doing Pilates and meditation, then getting ready for the day.

My style staples are…a perfectly fitting suit.

When it comes to skincare…I am very disciplined and I’m a bit of product junkie; I love trying new products but I always keep my staples of a good double cleanse morning and evening. I make my own face masks at home and use one almost daily. I use LED regularly and have two different machines at home, it also helps me to relax after a stressful day. I always use a vitamin C and antioxidants during the day, and peptides and a retinol at night.

To follow a healthy, balanced diet…I always start the day with celery juice and try to follow a healthy balanced diet. I also avoid dairy, gluten and red meat.

I find myself most creative and productive…late at night, whenI am in bed, much to the dismay of my partner!

What I love most about my job is…doing what I love, and being able to be as creative as possible.

If I wasn’t in my current position…I would be a race car driver!

After 6pm I take time to…be with family.

Just before bedtime…I shower and take off all my makeup, I like feeling fresh and clean when I get in bed.

Three things I can’t live without are…my partner, my daughter and friends.

A day I’ll never forget was…when my partner surprised me with a trip to Vienna for my birthday. I had no idea where we were flying until the plane landed — we went to the Opera and had a magical time together, it was so romantic.

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  • Words by Rachel Silvestri