Kate and Laura Mulleavy have a knack for delivering such beautiful head scratchers. If you’ve followed their evolution through these past couple of years, you’d know that nothing is more totemic to the Rodarte DNA than their home state of California. Even their latest collection, which serves a concentrated mash-up of ‘Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’, Vincent Van Gogh and a bit of astronomy by way of modernized 50s couture, is intrinsically imbued in the Mulleavy’s private own Cali essence.
Here’s how the pieces connect: Kate had been watching the animated classic, whose colors and painterly qualities struck a chord; a few blocks from their home in Los Angeles, the sisters went to a museum that housed some Van Goghs, including a portrait of his mother whose colors Laura describes as “poison green” (Van Gogh’s peculiar combinations of sea foam and ocher also lent itself as inspiration here) and lastly – Mt. Wilson Observatory, where scientists had been photographing and analyzing sunspots. It’s also where it was first discovered that the universe is infinite. That concept of infinity is especially fitting for Rodarte, whose clothes have always been rendered in a sort of primordial quality, an otherworldly spirit even, and what on Earth is more primordial than California? The Redwood forests and Joshua Tree can attest to that. I can’t help but preface with these details because what has made Rodarte such a universally lauded brand is its depth of thought. It’s not every day that designers tailor their own mythologies, and watching the Mulleavy sisters harness their definition season to season has made for one of the great fashion experiences of the past couple of years.
With this last collection, it’s not that the sisters have toned down or done away with their crafty, hands-on techniques that drove their earlier pastiche-laden works – it’s just become more graphic and defined, at least in this outing. Those sunbursts have been digitally interspersed with Van Gogh sunflowers and weathered in a true-to-form Rodartean ‘unglamouring’ process. The signature gowns, the penultimate look being a bonafide, slap-yo-mamma-in-the-face kind of show-stopper, is what earns these girls their bread and butter, but here more than ever, it was a real surprise to see what they can do with pants. Cigarette pants, at that. Whether in gold brocade, periwinkle or cobalt blue with rust flower-print, these provided the most covet-worthy elements in the show. Or, maybe it was those bisected tops with those 50s glamazon shoulders. Or maybe the iridescent, almost lacquered dresses like that purple stunner donned by Liu Wen. That specific silhouette being one of the most unique this season, by far.
And bless the Mulleavys on the showmanship front. The styling is hands down the best of the spring line-ups thus far. From the perfect Sweet 16s/prom hair, to the bewitching dark eye, plus a little Mazzy Star and Morrissey runway music to the mix and you get something only Rodarte can do and that’s always something hard to beat.