In our mass-marketed and manufactured era, Laura and Kate Mulleavy, the designers of Rodarte, know the value of a little handworked originality. Their crafty collections bring a bit of the personal into an industry increasingly defined by the mass production of pricey key fobs, four-figure handbags, and heavy bottles of perfume. But the Mulleavys’ sensibility is quite the opposite. The sisters live in an old family cottage in Pasadena, Grey Gardens style, and are famous for staying up all night to finish their collections by hand.
Rodarte’s signature look is dreamy: net, tulle, hand-done appliqués. When heavy-handed, the effect is hokey. But this season, it was as if they’d taken a deep breath and thought hard about a sleeker, lighter silhouette. The effect was elating — airy knits, cobwebbed crochets. Evening dresses were a pastiche of tulle and net and unfinished yarn. They were light and, when full, resembled nothing so much as a Degas dancer. In several instances, the knits were paired with satin stovepipe trousers, which brought the fairyland effect right back to earth. A passage of three floor-length gowns closed the show, and it was hard to tell if their backs were full because of the lightest breath of tulle, or through some other genius bit of construction. Either way, they earned an extra round of applause. These clothes are luxurious, and they are unaffordable. But they will not ever become for the masses; they will never trickle down. For most of us, these clothes are for admiring from afar. —Amy Larocca