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Three years ago, the fine artist Sterling Ruby staged a show at Sprüth Magers in London titled “Work Wear.” The art in the gallery was not exactly the usual finished work from his L.A. studio, but rather the byproduct of making it: the bleach-splattered jeans, overshirts, and sweatshirts he wore while creating the poured-urethane sculptures and sublime spray-painted canvases that have made him art-world famous. At the time, Ruby told 032c that these handmade pieces from his wardrobe were not for sale, and would never be sold—a bummer for those of us who got a taste of Ruby’s fashion sensibilities from his and Raf Simons’s legendary collaborative collection in 2014. And a bummer because the alchemical, destroyed finishes on his personal uniform were cooler than anything coming off the runways. But at the time, Ruby left the door open to creating a collection of workwear people could buy: “I feel like they could be samples for a possible future collection.”

Last night in Florence, that collection—with the somewhat unwieldy branding of “S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA.”—hit the runway in Florence. Those who had ogled his personal garms in London got a treat right off the bat: a long-sleeve button-down and jeans based on an outfit Ruby made in 2009 appeared first, a simple silhouette that looked like it had been tie-dyed with reds, greens, and purples before being blasted with a super soaker of bleach. The trippy acid-washed workwear forms the backbone of the collection, but a green-and-black plaid car coat, a series of oversized plush sweaters, and a downright monumental poncho-robe (handmade by Ruby—that one will be price upon request) prove that Ruby’s not just an artist who has figured out he has bleach-splattered jeans he can sell. He has arrived as a true fashion designer.

Backstage after the show, Ruby told a group of assembled journalists that he hadn’t really figured out the business side of things yet. Not exactly true: as of today you can buy pieces from the collection on the brand’s site and SSENSE. (If there’s one thing fashion has learned from art, it’s the merits of “see now, buy now.”) Within S.R. Studio, there are actually four sub-lines. There’s a mainline of basics and denim; a line of pieces made in editions of 50; the “Soto” group, which utilizes fabrics worked by Sterling Ruby Studio; and pieces, like the robe, realized by Ruby himself. With tees starting at $350, the mainline isn’t exactly entry-level, but for fashion kids who can’t afford the astronomical prices of Ruby’s Raf Simons pieces on Grailed, practically anything Ruby sells feels like a bargain.

Longtime Raf Simons collaborator Pieter Mulier walked in the show

Simons was, understandably, on everybody’s mind in the vaulted chamber of La Pagliere on Thursday night, and not just because he was sitting in the audience. Those oversized sweaters, coats, and ponchos had Simons’s influence all over them. It doesn’t appear that the two friends formally collaborated this time, but it’s tempting to view S.R. Studio as the spiritual successor of Simons’s all-too-short-lived Calvin Klein 205W39NYC line. At Calvin, Simons poked and prodded at the corn-fed masculinity of his (then) home country. Ruby grew up on the outs in rural Pennsylvania, where he opted to make things on his mother’s sewing machine rather than play football, and escaped by going to hardcore shows in D.C. Now, he’s taking an autobiographical trip through those woods: what’s a pair of bile-green matchstick jeans but a subversion of a deeply American symbol? The connections run everywhere: there are the address-y names, of course, and the fact the Ruby’s work adorned Calvin’s office, show space, and Madison Avenue flagship store during Simons’s tenure. After the show, the two shared a giddy hug backstage.

Article written by Samuel Hine #GQ