For those who don't know me from the New York Times blog, On The Runway, I'm brooksie and have been posting there for many moons...this is where I met my buddy Fluff Chance whom I encouraged to seriously blog. I'm also Joanshearer on various fashion Livejournals. Fluff, IMHO, is one of the most insightful and blunt voices on the fashion interweb today and since he and I have a very similar vision, I asked him if I could guest blog sometimes. I'm too lazy for my own blog! ;)
I've watched these young women, the Sisters Mulleavy of Rodarte, from the very beginning and I championed them when even Cathy Horyn viewed them with much skepticism. So skeptical was she initially, she refused to attend their shows until mid 07. I believed in their vision and their desire to make American fashion on a more artisinal level than we're used to seeing. America has always had a very small number of artisinal designers such as Ralph Rucci, James Galanos, Pauline Trigere, and Geoffrey Beene, to name a few.
As we all know, they DID get championed by Ms. Anna Wintour from nearly the start of their careers, so they got plenty of media attention and hence developed a following of sorts. However, as time has gone by, they have shown themselves to be "one trick ponies" more often than not. I'm intrigued by the notion that silk scarves sewn on to body stockings STILL seem to hold so much editorial appeal. This look was new and exciting 2-3 years ago, but where's the "juice"...the evolution beyond a student's vision? In fairness to The Sisters, their skill at executing the garments has dramatically increased with each season, but the vision remains quite static. When I initially championed them, I never expected that what I initially liked would keep coming down the runway several years later.
They put me in mind of the then super young Christian Francis Roth who became prominent in the late 80s-mid 90s. Mr. Roth was immediately championed by Vogue (US version) and had tons of editorial endorsement without much experience as a designer for others (apprenticeship) or any in business. He was truly avant garde for the day and his clothes were rightly thought to be new and exciting in look/concept (if not in wear). What separated him from the modern incarnation of the phenomena was that he had quite a number of tricks up his sleeve and his look evolved. The changing times and the economic pitfalls of the mid 90s took him out as a major name, but for those who remember him we dream of what he would be doing now if he'd stuck around. I'm sure he'd NOT be making Crayon dresses today. Actually, now he's making dresses for the contemporary, bridge market... but that's another story altogether.
So how does this relate to Rodarte, you ask? Will we in 5, 10, or 15 years from today see 30 runway looks...all Asia Extreme body stocking dresses w/ ripped leggings? If so, is that what we deserve? Even designers considered most avant garde and true to vision mix things up a bit, if you look at those who emerged from the 70s-90s. They also show that they have an understanding of basic garment construction and an understanding of the human form. Will this be the case for designers emerging in the 00s?
The editors of mainstream fashion mags seem to get stuck in a rut of encouraging young designers to make the same things over and over again, but trying to pass it off as "new" to the public. Some of us have longer memories than this. Where are the real critiques in fashion today and why are they lacking? I can understand it for a financial powerhouse such as Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, and the like....but for emerging designers, how is this useful? Besides, those designers EARNED the right to make the same thing over again, these younger ones need to show that they can make a proper pair of pants at least once. I do not blame this on the young designers as much as the editors that continue to reward creative fossilization.
Rodarte is not the only emerging label that seems to be suffering from this poverty of imagination, but to date they are the most glaring and oft-celebrated example. Someone needs to say that the emperor has no clothes....unless you factor in a bloody body stocking!
On the Street…Lafayette St., New York
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