In the five years since Kate and Laura Mulleavy launched Rodarte, one fashion buzzword has often eluded them: commercial. It’s a notion with which, as the past few seasons can attest, the sisters have grown increasingly comfortable, grounding their wondrous flights of fancy with a nice leather jacket or webby pullover. This time, the collection proved they’re in total command of the wearable stuff. And the most welcome part here: They haven’t lost sight of the unconventional artsy-craftsy take that made fashion fall in love with them in the first place. One can’t help wonder if, with all the rumors swirling about a possible LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquisition, this was their merch-meets-Mulleavy audition. Pierre-Yves Roussel, it was a slam-dunk.
From the very start, there was something decidedly different about this go-around. The first model walked up and down the crate-strewn runway in the dark; with the clothing details practically indiscernible, the audience zeroed in on the silhouette, which was remarkably clean, simple and streamlined. No tatters, fringe, or meaty patchwork pilings spilling from the body. And so it would continue for the rest of the show, each shape relatively straightforward and restrained. And with the lights on, the point of visual interest became clear: a collage of patterns and prints, and tons of it.
Inspired by their native Northern California and its redwood forests, the Mulleavys whipped up bold wood-panel prints and leaflike embroideries on tailored sportswear, ladylike draped silk skirts and dresses. A simple parquet-patterned shirtdress, with a crisp, neat collar, came with alluring shoulder cutouts, a peekaboo motif mirrored elsewhere on shoulder-baring blouses and frocks with cutout stomachs. Eventually, the nature theme gave way to porcelain patterns, plucked from antique vases, in rich, watery blues. Shapes, however, remained the same — Seventies-style pants, layered skirts, button-downs and both structured and draped peplums. “We were looking at wood carvings and how they were coupled with porcelain,” explained Laura, who noted that the lineup’s clean, spare shapes were an obvious conclusion. “We imagined porcelain silhouettes. And if we do wood paneling, that’s flat.”
By show’s end, that vision turned flaxen in an ode to the California gold rush that read more gladiator than Wild West. (Perhaps connecting the dots: the California State Seal portrays both a miner and Athena.) But whatever the inspiration, the Mulleavys struck commercial gold.