Watching a Rodarte show is always a treat for the senses, but never more so than Tuesday night, when designing sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy debuted their fall 2007 collection at the Daryl Roth Theater on Union Square.
A mere three nights earlier, the venue had been the staging ground for the future-forward looks of up-and-coming eco-label SANS, but on Tuesday, Rodarte took the audience on a trip back in time, instead, with a collection of astonishing, artfully realized creations that - while it's becoming a cliché of every Rodarte review to mention - places the sisters among the few couture-level designers working in America today, and that it was our privilege to witness firsthand.
Referencing both history and the inner, emotional life of womankind, the show opened with Jessica Stam in a laminated ebony wool dress with Swarovski-encrusted sleeves and stiff wing-like appendages at the hip, the torso of which was torn asunder to reveal a fine jersey underpinning, as if to suggest that what you see isn't always what you get.
This was followed by a slightly more conventional tulle-and-crystal cocktail dress. And, in fact, the duo actually showed more than a few looks that didn't require a degree in art history or philosophy to appreciate this time around, including a pleated chiffon sheath with a fanciful floral belt, a purple and fuschia satin frock with black-and-white panel encircling the hem, and a downright delicious cable knit sweater dress that demonstrated the Mulleavys can do straightforward and sexy with the best of them, should they so choose.
But, as always, it was their signature vertical-ruffled dresses - many of which jutted away from the hip in an ungainly, yet breathtaking, way - that stole the show. In fact, when they sent out a series of jacquard dresses featuring elaborate hand-pleats that stood about a foot from the model's body, like a satin moat protecting the princess within, we were so transfixed we forgot to take notes.
Looking around at the dreamy smiles worn by many of our neighbors, we clearly weren't the only one experiencing a Fashion Moment.
"This collection was inspired by our reading an article about the Mona Lisa, and the recent scans that were done to the painting," the Mulleavy gals told us later. "Underneath the layers, it was revealed that she was originally wearing a white gauze dress and bonnet. For us, this idea of a haunted women, someone that we know so much about, and yet nothing at all, really seemed to permeate our thoughts. We kept thinking about Titian portraits, and then of communist Czech outfits - clothes that seem a bit too simple for a woman to wear."
Inspiration aside, "simple" is not a word one would ever use to describe Rodarte’s otherworldly, one-of-a-kind creations. And for that, we are eternally grateful.