(images via ny mag)
from pretty much the first look at the s/s 2012 rodarte show, presented at new york fashion week, when i saw those unmistakeable sunflowers, i knew we were in for a time. a vincent van gogh-inspired collection? were they kidding us? perhaps the most famous modern artist in the western world? this, i thought, could only be fraught with controversy, and before you get vexed at me for my perhaps-known skepticism of the label (see f/w 2010, s/s 2011, f/w 2011, resort 2012), try to remember that i really did try to keep an open mind.
first, of course, a bit of background: “Van Gogh’s brushstrokes infused pretty much everything we did. Our color palette, the embroidery, the designs. Every decision we made, we asked: Could this be part of a van Gogh painting?” one of the label’s designers, laura mulleavy, told the washington post. and indeed, though all the later-period masterworks (the starry night, almond blossoms, the aforementioned sunflowers) and swirling brushstrokes were here, so too were the colours: rich ocher, deep indigo, shimmering aqua, and deep amethyst. okay, so…
i couldn’t help but feel they were rather naive (or should i say, particularly given the resort 2012 ‘donating to the lacma’ thing, a little narcissistic) to assume they could do justice to these masterworks. it’s not to say they’re not talented, and the clothes aside—although on a separate note, i’m not sure they were up to par, themselves, but more on that in a moment—it’s rather a lot to expect us to see someone thinking they can stand in the same breath, next to such legendary paintings as these.
not only that, but is it really a good idea? do you really wanted to be judged with such close scrutiny, your once-loyal fans and viewers wondering whether your pieces stand up to the prints, or is it to them you owe all? but perhaps i shouldn’t be questioning this. the starry night, after all, graces the surface of a credit card my friend owns. nothing is sacred, deserving its own quiet place in history (not to be violated and twisted into ludicrous films by the movie industry, used to sell cheap wares, the subject of lurid ‘historical’ novels)…but, once again, i digress.
what, i wondered then, would the ‘proper’ critics say? well, interestingly, without fail (and despite the fact these journalists use every opportunity to try to dispel the notion of a decent blog, though we’re not beholden to things like ad dollars from companies, or seo-driven desperation for clicks), they each took the time to exclaim over the famous front row set amidst getting down into the clothes. but besides the nyt’s eric wilson fretting over copyright, only style (yeah, i was rather surprised, too), took the time to give more of a tepid response.
“The fifties prom dress silhouettes—nipped at the waist, with all the action at the shoulders and the flaring hems—seem pitched so resolutely in the past. And while you can picture Tavi showing one off on her blog or Elle Fanning wearing another on the red carpet, it’s harder to imagine the grown-up woman willing to lay down four figures for one,” they opined, but the rest, from vogue to the la times to the wp to wwd seemed oblivious to concerns that these pieces felt very much like overdone monuments to excess, the lavish technique and aren’t-we-artists materials sharply competing with the print and colour for attention (and the love and artist street cred they so desperately appear to crave sometimes gets a little droll for me—if, to be fair, they’ve nevertheless turned out in the past some striking creations).
i will say that i was most endeared to the mostly-solid coloured pieces (the knits, the fifties/sixties jacquard jumpsuit third from above, the stripey cobalt frock second from above), and there were some good ideas to be had there. and i strongly wish they’d followed this path (or even vlada’s blatantly, but less-so than the below interpretation dress, eighth from top) lieu of the so-obviously-a-nudge-to-lvmh of their commercial powers extravaganzas, as below. of course, i don’t want to deny that the sisters are talented and that they have offered up some true shakeups to the notions fashion has of beauty in the past (or even today; liu wen’s shimmering ultramarine number, fifth from top, was quite a sexy stunner). but it’s become quite apparent they’re following a political track rather than one of simple artistry, as they’d like us to think, courting the right celebrity set, magazines, and fashionie notions of what fashion ought to be. and i find that a little sad, the unmistakeable underline on the phrase that this is all the game, with the pure joy slowly leaking out of it. no wonder i sometimes yearn for those little-known fashion weeks showcasing designers with 10 twitter followers.
(watch a runway highlights video here)