(images via vogue)
oh, children. do you realize that, once again, i scarcely know how to roll with this one? much like those thoughts during my recent expostulation on the s/s 2013 marc jacobs show, i often feel that no matter what designer kate and laura mulleavy of rodarte turn out, there are plenty of those that will sing. and honestly, while i’ll admit to being a bit more biased on their work—i don’t really like or respect it nearly as much as the aforementioned mr. jacobs—i believe i’ve given positive feedback all the same (see a/w 2010, s/s 2011, f/w 2011, resort 2012, s/s 2012, a/w 2012). but do we already know what’s coming for s/s 2013?
i don’t mean to be cynical, but my first (immediate!) thoughts on the sisters/designers’ spring collection at new york fashion wee harkened back to the a/w 2012 proenza schouler show. and happy as i was to see sometime-retired models (in the days they seemed to have much more personality than now) jessica stam (top) and iselin steiro (second from top), amongst other favourites, take to the catwalk, i literally almost gasped when taking in the shapes and textures of their jagged-cut skirts and dresses. like…seriously? were those just leftovers the models brought by from the archives of proenza? or what?
but on the other hand, it’s not like it was all like that. the mistresses mulleavy did have some of their own ideas for spring, to varying degrees of success (though i’m sure most of the critics only think of one). all the same, however, it really gives me pause to consider what has been set before us, and the manner in which it manifested. really, if any other house (you know, particularly one smaller or less hailed in fashionie circles) tried to pull so many ideas from what felt the same chamber pot….would that fly? and try to be honest when reflecting, regardless of your personal feelings on rodarte, okay?
right then. i’ll shut it, and we’ll listen to the critics. “God bless the maverick Mulleavy sisters; they certainly bring a uniquely idiosyncratic blend of crazy inventiveness and a perversely sophisticated loving-hands-at-home passion (think macramé, patchwork, quilting) to the New York collections that sets them apart from anything else to be seen here. This season their imaginations ran wild,” began us vogue. guess we understand where they stand, then. and so, too, the la times, declaring that “there were garments that could have been conjured up from the days of dragon-slaying at the roll of the polyhedral dice…there was just as much borrowed from other fantasy worlds.”
on the other hand, the nyt’s eric wilson appeared not to want to take a real stance, opting for some straight-up synopsizing, in writing that “(t)he Rodarte collection this season was not for sitting around. The sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy packed a lot of energy into collages of guipure and jacquard with metal cages, built-in jewelry and panels of silk printed with an ivy trellis, on evening gowns and short strapless dresses. In the same collection, there was a street-tough vibe, with boxy black leather jackets, trimmed with fringe, and lace-up black leather pants.”
and style’s review felt similarly sycophantic: “This editor saw Game of Thrones influences in the collection. The HBO show is right up the sisters’ street, but Laura begged innocence, claiming she’s never seen it. We believe her: The Mulleavys have vision to spare…tapping into teenage dreams has been part of the duo’s approach since forever. Maybe that’s why the leather fringing on what are sure to be the most photographed and coveted pieces in the collection, the boss leather vests, put us in mind of nothing so much as cheerleader pompoms. And as for the provocative laced and grommeted leather leggings, those conjured bad girls sneaking cigarettes in the parking lot between classes.”
sigh. nothing wrong with being complementary, but what is it about a handful of labels that make fashionie-critics gush so (the aforementioned mr. jacobs, christopher kane, rodarte, balenciaga, in my estimation)? and really, what is it that prevents them from offering a more sharp-minded critique? but! like, seriously! as another example, we had showstudio rhapsodizing that “(t)here was something elegant, regal and storied, but also fresh and electric.” and do you know what? i really did like the aforementioned misses stam and steiro’s frocks, as well as querelle jansen’s (second from bottom). but as i reflected on it, my mind went back to the proenza show of last season, and that dress daria strokous sported that was…much the same black, white, and tiffany blue colour. and just like that, my respect once again faded.
sometimes i can’t help but feel rodarte is a bit like the fashion design version of lady g, with those same problems of trying to act as though they’re the first to have ever done something, all the while sometimes borrowing rather heavily (yannow, from fellow design houses, or, like, the art of vincent van gogh) or just, like, not necessarily pulling things off so well as they think (like the black swan ‘costuming’, perhaps), but all the while carrying off that ‘we so flyyyy’ attitude. but maybe it’s that which makes the reporters turn. “It was an imaginative mix of strange beauty,” was wwd’s take.
meanwhile, after proclaiming the designers to be “genius” (a word i prefer never to use, or at least not this lightly), grazia announced that “(o)n the opening looks, there was a masterful mix of ornate, dimensional fabrics such as guipere lace, deluxe brocade and jacquard - cleverly constructed into short dresses that appeared to be kitted out with luxurious armour. Following these came pieces employing a devilish use of leather. This created a wardrobe fit for a host of heavenly Hells Angels dressed to kill,” as uk vogue opined that “(i)t was a startling new direction packed with content and a silent request to look closely at the plentiful technique that went into each piece. And look people will.”
alors. there you are, that’s your positive input. so you might make up your mind as you please. but for those of us skeptics, i’m pleased to announce we’re not alone, and we can hear the voices of those critics now: “The Rodarte collection was surprisingly klutzy. Kate and Laura Mulleavy have worked with hard-edge materials in the past, but that wasn’t the problem. Despite a solid hand with leather pieces, like studded lace-up pants, many of their looks verged on Proenza Schouler’s style,” was the nyt’s cathy horyn’s take, showing that in some respects, at least, i’m not alone, that at least someone is questioning rather than merrily nodding along.
and we’ll let the iht’s suzy menkes close us out: “exposure to the sophisticated world of high fashion has changed the sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Although there was still fine craftwork in guipure or brocade, the duo are now ‘on trend.’ From the short, egg-shaped skirted dress familiar for many seasons to shoes that mirrored Balenciaga footwear, their show was probably more commercially savvy — but had lost its magic. A sweater with orange crochet squares linked with metal were in Rodarte’s fine tradition of handwork. Other pieces were baffling, like the 1980s-style fringed jackets in hunky leather, with what looked like double Cs. (Hello, Chanel!)” and in the end, you can think as you please. but i’d like to at least note that there are so many smaller labels in lesser well-known cities turning out truly innovative clothes each season, without the love and flashbulbs of the high-roving fashionies. it’s too bad none of them can admit when their favourites begin to falter and draw their attention to something really new, challenging, and truly intellectual, on its own terms.
(check out the complete collection video here)