Rodarte was New York’s most visually stunning collection but was it the best in show? Conceptually the collection was the kind of wham bam smash that truly invigorated the week. The Fever Ray meets Maori tribesmen meets shredded leather enthusiasts dresses pack the kind of instant wow factor that will no doubt make them editorial favorites but a piece of the puzzle was still missing. As compelling as it seems at a glance, the moments after the first impression are the ones that truly make a collection worthwhile. When you take away the the smoke, the Sharpie arm tattoos and the macabre ambiance of the show itself what are you left with?
The romanticism that we’ve come to associate with Rodarte was noticeably absent this season. The sisters Mulleavy have been gradually refining their look and slowly edging into darker, grungier territory and the spring collection takes the theme they’ve been building to its logical end point. We are presented with the same intricate yet deconstructed shapes but instead of featherlight softness there is a weighty sense of gloom. Frayed edges, tattered fringe and swirling vines of leather are all motifs. The palate of burgundies and muted taupes interlaced with black gives the impression of blood and ink splattered on parchment. There is no lack of imagination running through this collection but the vision was grim.
As bleak as the overriding idea may have been there is no denying the attention to detail and immaculate construction of these pieces. While the majority of the NYFW revolves around wearable and breezy chic, Rodarte creates something akin to American in-house couture. The threadbare heroines the Mulleavy’s present are an intriguing notion but the look could have gone further. Instead of 10 nearly identical patchwork minis there could have been a few torn apart suits. Perhaps a cue could have been taken from Nicholas Kirkwood’s awe inspiring steampunk shoes, works of art in and of themselves. All in all there was still that intangible missing element that could have elevated this collection from stunning to staggering.