Valentine’s Day came early Tuesday, when Kate and Laura Mulleavy presented a sublimely romantic Rodarte collection in the candlelit nave of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue.
The Los Angeles sisters name-checked Bram Stoker’s 1992 film “Dracula,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola, as a reference for their glamorous Gothic runway tale of puff sleeves, peplums and spectacular pearl tassel embroideries. But they seemed to spin the entire stylish history of Hollywood’s silver screen into this cinematic spectacle — Adrian’s Joan Crawford shoulders and “Letty Lynton” sleeves, Cecil Beaton’s Royal Ascot ladies, Bob Mackie’s mega-embroideries, and Eiko Ishioka’s looks for vampire (Gary Oldman) and victim (Winona Ryder).
The designers are master storytellers (with the help of Bureau Betak’s dramatic sets and settings). And this collection was the jaw dropping moment New York Fashion Week was waiting for, transporting in how it explored different facets of femininity — sweet polka-dot puff-sleeve peplum dresses; sweet-to-cloying tea dresses embroidered with hearts and flowers; object trapped in a spider web crystal cage corset and blood-red lace gown, and agent in shimmering black cape sleeve dress and the vampire stalker’s black silk hooded cape itself. (Note to Hollywood: The time is right for a female “Dracula” and the Mulleavys are ready for it.)
“I like the idea of something seeming sweet not necessarily being so,” said Kate Mulleavy. “It’s about exploring nuanced ideas.”
This was breathtaking showmanship, but the collection had an elevated practicality as well, which should bode well for its commercial prospects, with power-sleeve blouses, snug waistcoats, high-waisted flocked floral jeans and crystal belts, Forties tailored plaid peplum jackets and skirts, and a glossy black sequined pantsuit for everyday heroines.
The final group of free-fitting, hothouse floral hand-painted gowns also signaled a new direction for the designers. “Going back to something hands-on, instead of the drama of a giant silhouette. The drama comes from the simplicity of paint on the silk,” Kate added, hinting at where their creative impulses could take them next.