A walled enclosure separates the imperfectly kept grounds of the Lower East Side’s Marble Cemetery from time and urban reality. On Sunday evening, a grim, gray sky and cold, unrelenting drizzle made for the first sign of autumn bleakness to come. The setting proved perfect for Rodarte, the former expats to Paris who returned to New York with an enchanting display of the mesmerizing oddity of their work.

It was all kinds of fabulous. Fabulously weird. Fabulously indulgent. Fabulously impractical. Fabulously brave. Fabulously beautiful.

The Mulleavys are storytellers with an affinity for the creepy, a pair of soft-spoken, jeans-wearing latter-day Brontës whose best work celebrates the curious dialogue between strange and exquisite. Only the runway is their printed page, a platform for creative expression and experimentation. “American fashion,” the designers told WWD recently, “is very focused on commerce, and we think that narrow focus can be oppressive.”

They resist that oppression passionately. Here, they created a compelling reverie populated by ethereal creatures who live somewhere between the realms of reality and enchantment. The clothes were marvels of feminine overstatement — tulle, lace, satin, point d’espirit, ruffled-up leather, bows, embroideries — flowers intwined in hair, faces veiled, a huge tutu halo crowning one enchantress. 

Though the mood was eerie (a cemetery will do that), as were the artfully styled looks, color abounded in variations both delicate (pale pink flowered, beribboned, embroidered cape; pale blue and white hand-crocheted tube dress) and bright (layers of red, purple, black and white floral tulle; hot pink frilled lace tea dress; sunshine yellow deb dress dotted with silver glitter).

The Mulleavys showed savvy in working such vibrance into their otherworldly tale; certainly, adventurous red-carpet denizens can have a field day here. But this was not merely an ingeniously disguised red-carpet collection. As for the designers’ big-picture plans for commercial development, who knows? The sisters chose not to address that issue at all. Rather, they argued brilliantly that in a marketing-driven world, pure fashion retains the ability to transport us to wondrous places.

load comments