Kate and Laura Mulleavy are not the only designers in the big leagues who hail from California, but they are on the short list of those who still reside there. The Mulleavys’ connection to California is thicker than water and has bled into beautiful collections in the past. The California condor one of spring 2010 comes to mind. Their fall lineup also fell close to the hometown tree, with the designers flying the flag for the outer-limits charm of West Coast free spirits while making a real effort to show something that earthlings will buy and wear.
“It’s based on a town we grew up in, Santa Cruz,” said Laura Mulleavy, her tone implying that Santa Cruz is practically unheard of, never mind that for decades it has been an epicenter for surf and skate culture, which was the genesis of the collection. A progression from chic street to high boardwalk began with a series of black and nude looks, the first of which featured a luxe oversize suede trench worn over a tight bodysuit and black textured cropped pants that sat so low, the model’s bare hipbones jutted out, a recurring effect. Working in solid neutrals grounded some of the dreamy moments — i.e., the silk jumpsuit with a sheer tulle back embroidered with angel wings — without sinking them.
Then it was onto the trippy side of Cali, wherein the Mulleavys imaginatively dressed up lowbrow stoner staples. There was tie-dye for evening in fluid, colorful silk gowns, some of which were topped with angular “foam” collars in white, black or nude, while others merged tie-dye skirts with crimson, rose-embroidered tulle. A terrific graphic sweater and matching slim skirt with fringed trim seemed a fancier cousin of the Baja. The show ended with a parade of acid wash, whether as real denim, such as “shorts” that were really cropped pants shown unzipped up the side, or filmy printed silks like the wispy one-shouldered chiffon dresses. Throughout, Rodarte’s high-end Hell’s Angels wore barbed crowns and necklaces, and sheer tattoo socks with art by celebrity tattoo artist Scott Campbell.