In a few short years, Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy have established a distinct identity, found solid support at retail and become editorial darlings, forces that converged to garner them this year’s CFDA Swarovski award for emerging talent for Womenswear. Their progress from Pasadena, Calif., curiosities to major stars on the rise was evident at their show on Tuesday, in its impressive set designed by Bureau Betak, in a megacelebrity sighting via Natalie Portman and, most importantly, in the clothes themselves.
For spring, the sisters’ desire to rein their out-there reveries into something wearable took them to the tough side of romance and they made it a beautiful, provocative trip. That’s because while they’re clearly focused on developing real clothes — pleated and wrap skirts, skinny pants, motorcycle jackets — these ladies will not allow merch madness to trump their vision. A sensual nude-toned ode to the power goddess in short dresses and skirts highlighted the textural tension of mesh, knits, chiffons and leather, the last often worked with skeletal severity. More colorful chiffon frocks got de-sweetened when slung from heavy black chains. And those webby sweaters, so brilliantly engineered into dishabille, looked ever more mysterious over black rubber bandeau bras. Talk about tough love.