After last season’s Dracula-bitten, romantic extravaganza, Rodarte’s spring-summer 2021 collection – presented in a look-book – is understandably much less dramatic. It’s actually about coming back to the brand’s roots, according to Kate and Laura Mulleavy. The dual crises of a global health pandemic and raging wildfires in California – the sisters’ homeland – forced the designers back into that state: at home, together, with only their creativity to occupy them. While their collection was borne from the same cloistered Californian sisterhood of their earliest outings, the final products are visually different. It’s signature Rodarte, but in more practical-magic version. It’s not so much that the tulle explosions or the cake topper confections have dulled; in the face of such tough times, the sisters are emphasizing the importance of making fashion for this struggling world. “Everything we do is about fantasy and dreams, but we are located in a moment, and we are a part of what is happening now,” Kate told Vogue. A fanciful gown, both designers agree, has little place in today’s world, so instead they channeled their efforts into clothing they would want to wear now “without distilling the ideas.” Expect florals, veils, and just slightly off sweetness. Pajama sets, slips, and robes appear in dainty and orderly floral prints inspired by their local gardens. The floral story continues in the ’40s dresses they played with last season, now relaxed in shape with prints that radiate from the navel or appear in handkerchief-like grids. Silk sweatshirts (I’m on fence with logo ones, though), trackpants, and midi-skirts continue the motif, trimmed in lace or ruffles. All this is topped off with silk floral wreaths that frame models’ faces, giving them the impression of fairies, nymphs, or other magical woodland creatures. With this collection, the Mulleavys have proven their ability to make inherently useful garments that don’t compromise on the Rodarte identity.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel „Dracula” inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s cult 1992 adaptation of the book, starring Winona Ryderand Keanu Reeves and featuring costumes by the legendary Eiko Ishioka. Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s autumn-winter 2020 Rodarte collection riffed on Coppola’s movie (and Ishioka’s costumes), but the result wasn’t a literal, gothic line-up. The location of the show – the dimly lit St. Bartholomew’s church in New York’s Midtown – provided a mysterious stage as the Mulleavys sent their army of ethereally chic undead out. The first part of the collection was about the pretty prey of Dracula: think cheerful polka dot day dresses, all over-sequined looks, draped blouses and pouf sleeves which all elaborated on 1940s-inspired silhouettes. Suddenly, the collection doubled down on the sweetness. Things got seriously dark – a sparkly midnight blue hooded cape, black fringes that looked like the tendrils of witches’ hair, cobweb embellishments, blood red. It was about witnessing the transformation of prey into predator, which was exactly the point. The show’s closer: a dreamy gown with big shoulders, blue flowers and a floor-sweeping, liquid-like veil. The vampire’s bride? Or the queen of the immortals? Designers seem to avoid scenarios for their collections – the fear of falling into the cliché trap – but at Rodarte, story-telling always works well.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.