If spring was another feather in the caps of Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy — and it was, no question — the plumes would be black. Backstage post-show, Laura said she and her sister were inspired by California condors, the big, bald, black vultures that faced extinction in the late Eighties. “We just kept thinking about how they had to scavenge to survive,” she said. “If they were mangled and tattered, how they would be reborn.” That sounds dark and ugly, yet it yielded exquisite results.
At its core the collection was about construction — the cobwebs, complicated and calculated, that are very much a Rodarte signature, here pushed to gorgeous Gothic extreme. Dresses came in beautiful, body-wrapping tatters of delicate silks and cheese cloth that had been burned, stained and distressed to evoke a post-apocalyptic attitude. Graphic black tribal tattoos that sleeved the models’ arms added to the edge. At the opening, a series of tartan-infused styles that suggested a Scottish warrior queen gave way to leather lattices layered over lace and increasingly intricate nets of beads spliced with tie-dye, cascades of dreadlock-like fringe and patches of black feathers.
As for the palette, an alluring melancholy of tea stains and black were broken up by acid green and deep reds. Still, it was a dark proposition. And though the Mulleavys exposed a different approach to the shadowy and subversive, the presentation itself was filled with repetition, with some looks virtually indistinguishable from the next. Then there’s the fact that the Mulleavys have worked their dark side for some time now. As remarkable as this collection was, it would be nice to see them come back into the light and bring a few more approachable looks with them.