Rodarte's Extravagant Impracticality

The delicate designs of Rodarte. Photo: Photograph by FirstView


The Mulleavy sisters — Laura and Kate — of Pasadena are unlikely fashion stars. They live in a teeny-tiny, vine-covered cottage that most visitors wind up comparing to Grey Gardens. They wear Levi's — and not the hip ones, either — with nondescript tops and nondescript hair. They talk about finding inspiration in old growth redwoods or favorite books and poems. They look like grad students. And the fresh, careful collection they showed on Tuesday was as unique and well thought-out as an award-winning dissertation.

Rodarte excels at meticulous, hand-worked detail — vertically applied ruffles on the back of a round-necked dress, for example. It would be exceedingly difficult to knock off one of the Mulleavys' dresses, and even harder to sell the knockoff. A fashion world besieged by mass-marketing is besotted with such originality.

The shapes were full and fanciful: petal-pink rosettes and marabou feathers dotted with delicate chiffon macaroons. This extravagance, combined with feminine details, princess colors, beautiful seams, and the sisters' delicate touch, surpasses the lack of concern for practicality. Because if everything on the runway were strictly "wearable," we'd fall asleep in our little wooden chairs.

Amy Larocca