They’re back! Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy burst into fashion with a gloriously peculiar take on romance, as dreamy as it was dark and sometimes dangerous. Since then, they’ve struggled to translate their vision commercially, a square-peg-round-hole situation. It has been a challenge, one played out on their recent runways as they resisted revisiting the motifs that made their early work so special.
However the designing sisters worked through that necessary turmoil, spring played like a sartorial epiphany expressed with clarity and guts. All designers start from a core premise: the Mulleavys’ is the creation and delivery of beauty — a beauty that is weird, unsafe and unmistakably theirs. This acceptance left them free to rethink the development of their commercial side (relatively speaking), and they made strides in that direction, too.
The designers’ starting point was tide pools and all of the glistening, mysterious materials and textures therein. Whether they were referencing the life aquatic of their California youth or of their verdant imaginations, no matter. They mined the waters and came out with dresses mesmerizing in their messiness: elaborate pastiches of hand-painted laces, tulles, netting and embroideries. They were exquisite.
But life isn’t lived underwater, or after dark only. The Mulleavys showed an affinity (still nascent) for daywear their way: lovely ruffle-collared blouses that looked plenty sexy atop skintight jeans. They developed outerwear as well, which they envisioned, Laura said, on a girl standing on the pier watching the water. These came in sturdy olive canvas with wide netting on the sleeves, as if some chic flotsam had washed ashore on a wave of inventive practicality.