Yaeger: It’s Hard to Know How Seriously to Take Rodarte

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From left: ThreeAsFour, Rodarte, and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Photo: Imaxtree

“It’s um, kind of awesome, I guess. Anyway, it’s different,” says my seatmate at the Rodarte show, when the lights go down and the wildly deconstructed floral chiffons and hairy knits begin to glow as if illuminated by those black lights that used to amuse visitors at hashish parlors 40 years ago. The collection hovers, as ever, between Mommy-look-at-me and true artistic genius, and, as always, it is hard to know how seriously to take the Mulleavy sisters’ clothes, with their sky-high price tags and the insane enthusiasm they elicit from the fashion flock, who would never approve of half these ideas if they saw them at a student presentation. Still, you leave the show with plenty to think about, which is more than you can say for a lot of other efforts this week.

I have a big soft spot in my heart for another pair of sisters — the Olsens, who perfected their own version of the playing-dress-up look, hiding their tiny bodies under layers of clothes and adding giant glasses, or a funny vintage fur, or maybe a big bruiser of a Chanel purse. They’ve had an unexpected success with The Row (people who are child stars and start fashion companies don’t usually turn out to have talent). But as flamboyant as their personal appearances may be, their line has been a paragon of tasteful restraint. Alas, what looks wonderful on the third floor of Bergdorf can look a little pallid on a runway, especially when, with the exception of one Asian face, every single girl (I hate calling working women this, but it is the preferred industry term, and they are in fact teenagers) is Caucasian, and mostly blonde.

There are a refreshing number of women of color at Sophie Theallet, and the garments, irresistible frocks in Provençal prints that flounce off the shoulder and are covered by, at most, a flimsy cardigan, will be perfect for next December — in Buenos Aires, that is, where it’s 80 degrees at Christmastime.

“Somewhere in the air between Disco and Punk lives a woman boiling with youthful revolt but distinguished by unexpectedly classic style,” read the program notes at 3.1 Phillip Lim. Ya think? I find it hard to believe that this simmering creature, assuming she exists, wants to flounce around in Lim’s giraffe-patterned pantsuit, but maybe I’m wrong. One thing I do know: For all this blather about youthful revolt, Lim is keeping alive one of the most offensive and ridiculous traditions of Fashion Week: giving gift bags to front-row attendees only. Newsflash — these privileged people don’t need any more free stuff. Far better to have left those sacks on the seats in the last row, where a present really means something.

What’s with all the funny lighting effects this season? The entrance to the runway at ThreeAsFour is obscured by smoke — the better to see the green lasers that crisscross the floor. A model banging a gong sets off the proceedings, an elaborately choreographed presentation featuring the trio’s consistently interesting, intricately pieced ensembles. According to the show notes, the theme is alchemy, and each model’s ensemble corresponds to one of seven different metals that figure in this specious, dumbbell philosophy. Would that there was a process that would turn dross to gold during Fashion Week!

View the Rodarte collection.
View Sophie Theallet's collection.
View the 3.1 Phillip Lim collection.
View the ThreeAsFour collection.