The Hollywood Glow. Rodarte SS23

For Rodarte‘s spring-summer 2023 collection, Kate and Laura Mulleavy harnessed the theatricality and glow of live performances into a lineup of dresses and sets that balance fluid shapes with busy prints and intricate, rich textures. Alongside rainbows of psychedelic swirls – which take shape across bias-cut chiffon slips – and velvet burnout silhouettes, you will find a range of high-shine threads and embellishments with a light-refracting quality that adds striking dimension. “We were really wanting to feel something that was really vibrant and alive and about lighting and connectivity,” said Laura. A sense of ease and lightness was achieved on an entirely hand knit purple gown with long sleeves and a contrasting orange trim on the hem and cuffs. The yarn was made from a material “that almost looks like saran wrap,” Kate concluded. “No one believes it will be, and that’s what’s so cool about it. It’s very shiny.” They used the same fabric to create little skirt suits worn with matching cropped tops; one in shades of green, and another in orange and pink. The concept of light – both in terms of weight and illumination – played an important role in the collection. Metallic details abounded in fabric construction and embellishments, bringing into play the light that surrounds the garment as an added accessory. “All of the materials are in some way reflective of light. Even the lace has a sheen on it,” one of the Mulleavy sisters said. “So what’s interesting is that you see them differently depending on the angle at which you are looking at them.” This were manifested in straightforward ways, as in some of the looks in the second half of the collection: holographic sequins on an architecturally draped asymmetric gown; silver sequins on a spaghetti strap tunic and flared trousers; silver fringe on a Nick Cave-esque (the fine artist, not the musician) long sleeve cropped top and matching trousers; and gowns with mosaics made from small mirror shards. “We’re starting to see the red carpets open back up again,” said Laura. “I feel like there’s no version of us as designers at Rodarte if there never was a red carpet. We’re in Los Angeles, and it’s one of the thrilling aspects of designing eveningwear. If you design a gown, you want to see it out there, that’s the beauty of it.” But the Mulleavys know that the magic of their clothes is that they can impart that same feeling to anyone that wears them, no matter the place.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Land Of Dreams. Ralph Lauren SS23

Sometimes, we just want something stable and lasting in the world where everything changes so instantly and abruptly. That’s Ralph Lauren‘s allure, which seems to be going through a sort of renaissance in the last couple of seasons. Over the years, Lauren has shown us his New York – a show in Central Park, the café society show presented at his uptown store, the swanky supper club he erected near Wall Street and last season’s soignee affair at MoMA. While there’s no denying he’s a New Yorker through and through, nothing gets the creative juices flowing quite like a case of wanderlust. And so the designer looked farther afield for spring-summer 2023. Specifically to Southern California – shockingly, the first time he’s shown here. He could have gone anywhere he pleased, but Lauren landed on an unexpected choice – the Huntington Library, a museum and botanical garden just northeast of Los Angeles proper, founded in 1919 by an industrialist family that made their fortunes in railroads and real estate. It was against the museum’s Mediterranean Revival style facade that Lauren presented his vision to his Hollywood pals – Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Diane Keaton, Laura Dern, John Legend, to name but a few. The cushioned loungers and twilight cocktail hour set the tone – this was California casual, done the Ralph way. “California has always been a land of dreams and contradictions – rugged coasts and red carpets,” he said in his show notes. You could sense that those contrasts fascinate him. “For the first time ever,” he continued, “I bring my dream of living here, sharing my worlds in an experience that celebrates a way of life I have always believed in – a mix of grit and glamour, energy and inspiration.” In his six-decades-long career, there’s nothing in the American psyche that Lauren hasn’t addressed in some way. And yet, the West and its mythos, has been particularly transfixing. So it’s not surprising that he found ways to wring out new insights from archetypes and codes that he’s explored before.

The show opened with a trim, wheat-colored suit worn with an oversized cowboy hat, a Western belt, and antique-style jewelry. The effect was confident and assured – a mix of the urbane and rugged, of masculine and feminine. Floral-pattern bias-cut prairie dresses fluttering atop cowboy boots followed, adding a demure touch, while fringed knits became oversized cardigans or wrap skirts, imparting gravitas. Men, meanwhile, wore dusky denim suits, evoking the hardscrabble dignity of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, or, alternately, looked like suave frontiersmen of classic Hollywood westerns, the models tipping their hats and winking at audience members as they strutted by. The show shifted through different modes, first came looks in an easy key: breezy pleated pants worn with louche white button-ups, preppy sweaters tied around the neck, tennis shorts paired with a creamy brown turtleneck, a shimmering gold safari suit, all imbued with a sense of offhanded elegance. Next, it moved into a more eclectic, youthful beat: madras patchwork mixed with tailoring, athletic gear mixed with prep, polo shirts atop ball gowns or maillots worn with billowing nylon floor length skirts. Lauren seemed to be shaking off the formality of the East Coast, embracing the outdoorsy lifestyle of Los Angeles. It was a looser, freer collection, one that was a snapshot of the breadth and variety of the American style idiom (the wonderful casting of various ages and ethnicities helped tell that story beautifully). Instead of the normal final walk, the enormous cast came out and lined the stairs as Lauren, smiling, took his bow.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Groovy. The Elder Statesman Resort 2023

There’s only one place in Paris where you can stand over a pool of koi and under a glittering disco ball. Dragons Elysées is a Chinese restaurant that delights in kitsch – and can hold, as a nighttime The Elder Statesman presentation proved, a surprising number of revelers. Even in the brand’s thick knits on a humid Parisian day, the guests didn’t have a lick of sweat beading. Just one way Bailey Hunter, the creative director, is innovating at the Los Angeles-based label. The other way is that she is bringing the vibes back to one of fashion’s vibiest brands. Throughout the pandemic, founder Greg Chait took immense pride in the way The Elder Statesman was innovating and bringing most of its operations in-house. A new yarn-spinning technique, he said during his Paris event, would take at least a week to understand. But for all the ways the label reimagines its lightweight wovens, its groovy patterned knits, and its hand-done embroidery, crocheting, and dyeing, the special sauce of TES is its mood. That radiated during this crowded Parisian show. Chait and Hunter should stick with the idea and bring their party-presentations to more locations around the globe.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Ballet-Core. Rodarte AW22

Going for an all-pastel colour palette might be lethal. But the Rodarte sisters manage to keep the saccharine sweetness not that naive in their autumn-winter 2022 collection. The ultra-feminine line-up is heavily inspired by ballet and ballerinas’ ensembles, and it makes so much sense: Kate and Laura Mulleavy created Natalie Portman’s costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s terrific Black Swan back in 2010. But right now, there’s nothing evil about the Rodarte Swan Queens. Over 2020 and 2021, their innate sense of woman-ness has led the Los Angeles-based designers to swing their pendulum into collections about optimism, comfort, sweetness, sparkle, and motion. What they’ve landed on here is equilibrium. In pastel imagery by Daria Kobayashi Rich, with set design by Tina Pappas and Adam Siegel and floral design by Joseph Free, the Mulleavys have found the happiest, tenderest of marriages between the tiered cascades of blush tulle worn by Lili Reinhart, the crisp pink suiting donned by Janicza Bravo, the patterned tea dress on Natasha Lyonne, and the jeans and legwarmers on Laura Love. “The fantasy of what we want to do and create is the number one driving force,” demurs Kate, but when the Rodarte fantasy intersects so potently with reality as it does here, the designers’ honestness can feel more relevant than ever. In between, they make pit stops in bright fuchsia and teal, resurrecting their famous grunge-y spiderweb knits from autumn-winter 2008. “They are practical in a sense that they mold to your body and impractical in the most amazing way,” says Kate of the signature knits. The original versions – mini tube dresses and long cardigans – are back to the sure joy of many fans, but the sisters aren’t just playing to archive-mania. They’ve also made bustiers and capes in the knit, the latter worn by Lana Condor in a blue look trimmed in feathers. “The cape,” Kate says, “is practical and whimsical.” And sometimes you need fashion to be just that, equal parts a slip dress and a fantasia. It’s that kind magic that makes so many celebrities show up for a Rodarte photoshoot: the girls who get it, get it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Vibrant Vibes. The Elder Statesman AW22

Happy Easter! Here’s a beautiful treat: The Elder Statesman‘s vibrant autumn-winter 2022 look-book. This season, Los Angeles-based label’s creative director, Bailey Hunter, rang up her friends in Jamaica and gave them the keys to the castle. In collaboration with Savannah Baker, the collection’s photos and film were shot around Portland, Jamaica, and include jacquards and intarsias created by Baker’s niece, the British-Jamaican artist Kione Grandison. Good vibes abound. With each year, founder Greg Chait reports business going better and better and better, and with each season the brand opens the door to new ideas and techniques. Coats are made from an Italian woven hand whipstitched in Los Angeles. Post-consumer recycled-cashmere button-downs are hand dyed in the brand’s expansive L.A. H.Q. A new corduroy program, made from Italian cashmere, brings the label beyond sweaters and into one-of-a-kind tie-dye separates. Elsewhere the dyes have no ties at all – and there is experimentation in new ways to create print and texture on the sweaters. Even the abstracted checkerboard patterns and amoeba-like dyes – both executed in previous seasons – feel new and exciting. And that’s a big statement for a mostly knitwear brand.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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