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LIFE Goes Behind-The-Scenes With Ruffian (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 09/16/2010 6:08 pm   Updated: 05/25/2011 5:40 pm

From where the audience sits, a show at New York's Fashion Week looks effortless: Gorgeous girls with long, cool stares glide down the runway, dressed in garments so unique, so sensual, so impeccably made that they instantly set the trends your sister 2,000 miles away will soon want to wear. But for the designers who present at Fashion Week twice a year -- once for fall, and again for spring -- reaching this level of artistry requires not just a strong vision, but also an insatiable curiosity, wide-ranging sources of inspiration, and dedication to an exacting, unrelenting schedule that revs right back up when the last show ends. Last season for LIFE, photographer Gabrielle Revere chronicled Fashion Week from the perspective of a young model; now, she trails Brian Wolk and Claude Morais -- the ambitious co-designers behind the Ruffian label -- to capture the passion and the process involved in piecing together a collection, from sketch to the Studio at Lincoln Center.

Text and photos and captions from LIFE.com. Visit LIFE for the rest of the story.

Five Months To Go
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Approaching Spring 2011, Morais says, "we were looking at details that we have used -- all our collections have had a spirit or feeling of military." Wanting to explore that further, he and Wolk began studying the French Foreign Legion, a unit formed specifically for foreign nationals who wish to serve in the French armed forces -- an appealing setup, explains Wolk, "because we always try to mix this American and French sensibility." During their research, they stumbled upon the story of Brit Susan Travers, the only woman who has ever served in the legion. During her long and colorful life -- she died in 2003, at age 94 -- Travers had been a socialite, a semi-pro tennis player, an ambulance driver in World War II, and a globe-trotting diplomat; now, this fashion season, she is Ruffian's muse. Imagining her adventures, the designers began to sketch sophisticated, modern-day versions of what this kind of woman might look like. "We've read all about her, we're very respectful of her, so the fun is making up the in-between parts that you don't know," Wolk says.
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