Exactly one year ago Kate and Laura Mulleavy sent out their first ready-to-wear collection that had no ties to their home state of California. Up until their “Days of Heaven”/American Great Plains-inspired round-up last fall, one of the diehard Rodarte tenets had always been California or bust. It turns out broadening their horizons have worked for the sisters, at least in regards to commercial appeal. They have expanded as they’ve contracted. The quirks and idiosyncrasies remain, but the affects have never been this accessible.
A little commercial torque never hurt anyone, and it certainly couldn’t hurt Rodarte, whose fan-base lives for their auteur gambles, but scarcely have the proper occasion to sport such risky wares, nor the means to cover the affixed four digit price tags. They have flown the American coup before, via their collaborations with Opening Ceremony, having done a Norwegian-tinged capsule for the retailer. This time it was the dusty and rugged Australian Outback that set the stage for autumn, with a helping of 1940s and 70s silhouettes for good measure.
Still, it seems like the Mulleavys looked back to their own successful work from last fall to help completely drive their newly harnessed message. The collar on a tiered ruffled column dress was appropriated in that same embroidered mesh that decorated the tops shown underneath last year’s duster coats. Where Fall ’11’s folksy, geometric upside-down triangle necklines came in crafty, almost homemade looking leathers, here they came in delicate lace. Lace was another big story of the day, coming down in burgundy and dark olive frocks with rounded 40s couture cuts, making for some of the most restrained looks the sisters have ever sent down a runway.
In contrast, there was nothing demure about their take on outerwear – specifically with the show’s most talked about items – those Shearling and leather jackets and coats. When those hit the sales floor, they’ll be gone in a flash. Those felt like new propositions from the Mulleavys, while their now signature chunky knits served as definitely welcomed encores. The crème Fisherman’s sweater and tan wool trouser ensemble is surely destined for a Grace Coddington editorial (Keep an eye out – it will happen). And for all the naysayers whom supposedly have nowhere to go with their Rodarte in the real world, the ladies prepared the day-suit to end all day-suits, cut to perfection, imbued in a beautiful cayenne, with a big dramatic white lapel.
For followers looking to get their artsy fashion fix, the black cocktail dress with a sheer polka-dotted underlay top bisected nine times across the bodice in streams of metallic pink tinsel should certainly suffice. Yet, their ultimate “We’re still Rodarte” wink came right at the end, with the two closing gowns with cave-painting handprints. Werner Herzog could make a documentary about their enigmatic fabulousness.