Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy have become New York’s resident young dream team, and as such face great expectations regarding what their meticulous imaginations will dream up next. For the past few seasons, the sisters have explored a beautifully aggressive vision to a point that set up a critical moment: Move on or risk getting mired in sameness. In a resolute rebuttal to the latter, on Tuesday the Mulleavys showed an exquisite collection full of feminine nomads layered in intricate combinations of delicate versus robust. It had a beguiling lightness. Backstage postshow, Laura said they had been thinking about Juarez, Mexico, border towns and “the idea of sleepwalking and existing between worlds.” Considering the morbid nature of the news out of Juarez these days, such a premise could lend easily to the Mulleavys’ more ominous inclinations. Instead, they worked up a romantic overture defined by delicate colors, glorious knits and yards of traditional Mexican lace — girlish elements grounded in an earthy craftsiness.
There was a soft tribal sensibility to the substantial pilings. Sheer silk pants were worn under wrap skirts and densely woven sweaters that swaddled the body in one example of the lineup’s abundant knitwear. Crocheted cardigans were done in wide-weave webs and skirts cascading with thick marled fringe. Gentle putty hues such as light gray, tawny brown and ivory gave the look a homespun yet sophisticated quality that resonated in ethereal patchwork silk and lace dresses. There, the Mulleavys worked their tattered motif, winding mismatched floral silks in pinks and tea-stained tones, through swaths of lace, with more knit fringe and little strands of pearls as trim. Often, the fabric looked roughly cut from the bolt and draped at random to compose a single, mesmerizing piece, each a marvel of construction. Just as extraordinary as the level of craftsmanship was the fact that for all the lavish details, each garment was inherently wearable, down to the Nicholas Kirkwood for Rodarte shoes, designed with heels that glowed in the dark to resemble dripping candle wax.