If you Google Rubin Chapelle, you’ll see them described as either, a) the best dressmakers, ever, b) designers of near perfect jeans or, c) outstanding workers of leather. The truth is, well, all three are actually true. I thought the very idea of women’s wear that could make just about everyone look good and glamorous was one of the big myths, right up there with the unicorn and non-frizz hair. But I’ve seen their soft, silky, flowy looks on all kinds of women, and, yup, they all looked elegant and beautiful.
Their Fall 2011 collection is no exception. Rubin Chapelle manages, magically, to maintain a mature yet stylish base while attracting newer and younger clients all the time. And, according to Frank Milliren, the company’s Creative Director, it’s because they create clothes that enhance, and are enhanced by, the woman who buys them. “The fact that it somehow embodies the wearer, embodies the woman who has it and becomes her? That happens with a lot of our silhouettes,” he says. “Why? I think a big part of it is that Kip and Sonja always somehow manage, year after year, to stop before it’s too much.”
Cases in point: a creamy, silky dress with a surprising hand-painted pattern down the side, just enough to make it interesting, not over-the-top, or their trademark, perfectly tailored pants with intricate pleating that creates a perfect fit, then skims out to an elegant, wide leg. Despite the complex touches, these are clothes that look easy to wear, and that, too, is a reflection of the duo that designs them. “I think a big part of it is that it’s not forced,” says Milliren. “It really is organic, which may be overused, but it’s somehow appropriate. It’s a part of them, an extension of who they are.”
Sonja Rubin and Kip Chapelle first teamed up in 1997, selling wholesale and quickly becoming known for their beautifully constructed Italian viscose knits. They opened their Meatpacking shop in 2002 (they have a new store set to open in Malibu, California very soon). It’s hard to describe, but when you walk into the shop there’s a vibe, or an aura, or whatever cliché you want to use, but it’s a lovely feeling. Maybe it’s the soft, luxurious textures that surround you, or the airy openness of the space with its exposed brick and concrete. It’s enhanced by Kip and Sonja themselves, who personify creativity, yet are almost ethereally nice, and by Frank Milliren, their kind of “cheerleader-in-chief” whose job is made much easier, I suspect, by the fact that he’s cheering for a line that is so easy to believe in. He says it’s about their authenticity. “It’s not about trend searches, it’s not about targeting a niche, not a lot of research. It’s their life. They are designers, whatever the medium.”
Rubin Chapelle’s dresses, tops and pants may be a dream, but they also make a denim line, 192 Doves, that is amazing, and I know they say there are no more real “it” bags, but their soft, buttery Preston bag is going to be my first “when I’m rich” purchase, and I know I will have it forever. Most of the items are made in the U.S., a rare thing in the rag trade. The bags are made right here in New York City and what’s not made in America is made in Italy. And they have a healthy celebrity following, not the fly-by-night reality types, but Oprah, Uma Thurman, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie and even Jude Law. That’s all great, but it’s their respect for their client, no matter her age or size or celeb status, that makes Rubin Chapell truly special.
To see more of the Rubin Chapelle Fall 2011 Collection, and hear from Creative Director Frank Milliren, click on the Red Stiletto icon below.
camera: Scott Fetterman/Chad Cooper edit: Scott Fetterman
music: Tony Di Pietro voiceover: Emily Brooks
produced for Red Stiletto Media