Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The (de)Evolution of Rodarte.

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!



katie said...


La:Dolce:Vita said...

Sither sither sither.. True... Great post. Although, I don't think the Mulleavy sisters are and in that deep of a rut. Their clothes are always exciting and they switch it up some, but I think they need to remain true to the brand and what they are known for. I think you could easily switch "Rodarte" for "Herve Leger" in this post.

Crosscurrents said...

I agree with La Dolce Vita...the sisters are sticking with what they know...no reason to change just to appease you and only you. The interesting textile experimentation and the creative knits continues to strike my fancy. I salute the M Sisters for holding on to their niche and improving with every season.

Anonymous said...

Crosscurrents...LOL, "appease me"? Let's not be melodramatic. My ego ain't that big and it's not that serious. I'm simply talking about what I see. I'm HARDLY the only one either. . Not all of us can think EVERYTHING is great now can we? Boring world if we did.

La Dolce Vita...Herve Leger is no longer involved w/ his namesake label, so I'm not quite getting you. Herve Leroux does still design...but the Sisters are hardly in his league (yet). What next Azadeine Alaia?

Katie...thanks, much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

This is a great analysis of a dynamic duo who have become caricatures of themselves. They are from my home town so I have followed them since I first saw "Rodarte" and "Mulleavy Sisters" in an article on fashion.

The only criticism I have of Brooksie's piece is that it is too kind, too forgiving. Their clothes were always unusual, but many were also quite beautiful. Much of what they are doing now is downright ugly and not wearable. Even the models look ugly in most of their runway creations.

Maybe it is time for them to have an intervention - or for them to turn to design for theatrical productions and sci-fi movies.

Anonymous said...

I had thought of that as well. But, you articulated it WONDERFULY. Thank you for that post.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that their background is in art, not fashion design. I think that can explain the lack of structural design in their collections, though the artistry is strong. To maintain a high level of quality, fit, and creativity is difficult for a well-educated fashion designer, much less a couple of artists who never really had a proper design education.

Nathan Branch said...

Brooksie -- you make several excellent points, and the commenter who mentioned that the designers have a primary education in art rather than fashion provides some valuable background info.

Looking at their Spring 2010 collection, the dresses do look like paintings on the body, which is fascinating in a runway photograph (and probably fresh for a fashion editor to look at among a sea of boyfriend blazers, skinny trousers and sequined mini-dresses), but the lack of wearable structure is a problem.

Beyond that, the painterly effect *is* pretty great, though I understand your frustration at seeing it trotted down the runway season after season. It's kind of like, "Is that all you've got?"

One last thought: regarding their Fall 2009 collection, the reviewer at Style.com wrote: "What the show lacked in breadth, it made up for in singularity" -- I think that was meant to be a compliment, but it comes off instead as an indirect voice of support for the ideas you're expressing.

Anonymous said...

Who will crap the new crop of "fashion bloggers" who want to know nothing about fashion but indulge in plain gossip and run around designers buttering them and using them for some easy fame.Case in point is the disgustingly vulgar Bryan Boy who writes "whom should i blow to be in the front row of a marc jacobs show?" and get applauded even by nytimes moment blog, its a shame, how qualified is a 17 or 13 year old to critique a fashion show , so its not a big surprise that fashion is in the state it is today.Everyone wants fame the easiest way possible! Maybe you should start reviewing "fashion" blogs as well and make these people feel their true worth!

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote about fashion bloggers is right on!! Some fashion bloggers are great, this being one of them, but there are a bunch out there that make me wanna stick my fingers down my throw. I know of one in particular that she just used people to get where she is today. very well celebrated for just throwing up on herself! whatever she found in her closet and at a store. took a bunch of photos of herself and posted them. Clever to get some attentions, yes! A stylist, NO!!! anyone can do what she does. ANYONE!!! but of course, she is the only one, so she gets the attention, but not my attention anymore. Once one figure this people out, they are out!
this blog rocks though. happy thanksgivings, my favorite holiday I swear. when else you get to stuff yourself and then stick your finger down your mouth??? that's right, apparently a bunch of times.

Amber said...

I love Rodarte, but I have to agree with everything written in this blog post. I believe the Mulleavy sisters are beautifully imaginative, and at times I think I'm attracted to their...ideas more than their actual designs. I also agree with fellow commenters about 'Fashion' bloggers. Fashion bloggers are absolutely atrocious. Before I started my blog, I did not know how integral blogging had become to Fashion and I was expecting to read blogs and learn more about Fashion...or something groundbreaking. I can not tell you the disappointment I felt when I discovered that most Fashion blogs consist of outfit posts. The distinction between Fashion bloggers and Style bloggers should be made!

I set up my blog by impulse as a reaction to what I was seeing with other Fashion bloggers because I actually wanted to write about Fashion Design and learn from it (This is not a plug) I'm not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to Fashion, but I push myself and challenge myself and hope to inspire others to do the same. I think Fashion is in a state of complacency and our celebrity possessed culture is rubbing off on the Fashion Industry-thus the influx of bloggers with write ups in magazines-Fashion has lost its substance and is purely hype. It's so...disappointing and unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

yes fluff, browsie which ever avatar you take, you at least have the integrity to speak the truth no matter what!Kudos to you for that!Thankyou Fluff :-)

As for the "anonymous" comment supporting me about crap bloggers, a big thankyou to the author of that too.Feels good that I'm not the only one feeling bad about the state of things!

The worst part is "Bryan Boy" writes "whom should i blow to be in the front row of a marc jacobs show?" and gets to sit in the front row of the show!What is Marc Jacobs conveying through this? That you should compromise yourself to sit at the front row of a fashion show? Shame on you Marc Jacobs, hope you read this!And instead of encouraging crappy bloggers you should be focussing on your collection and trying to churn out a decent one, not the horror show that you put this time!

As for the other person I guess you are mentioning about "seaofshoes.com", another blog furiously promoted by Vogue and the like.The girl has a shoe wall comprising of some 100 odd pairs each averaging to about $600!She flaunts them and then writes people are stalking her and that no one needs to comment on her style as she started the blog to express her style and not for people to see, this after getting a chance to figure in the Crillion Ball or whatever!If she didn't want people to see her photos then she should have kept her photos in a private album!

The common denominator of the above mentioned blogs is that
these perverted kids flaunt their designer lables wearing them like there is no tomorrow.And the fashion world view them as free advertisers for their products and in exchange throw them a bone named fame! What message are we sending to the bunch of youngsters whose parents are not LOADED with money?That talent is secondary and money an abosulte necessacity?There is vulgar display of greed, lust and nothing more!And the likes of Anna Wintour promote them!Shame Shame Shame!

As Alber Elbaz rightly said, no one wants to be a seamstress, to get their hands dirty but only want to drink from the fame cup which designers have worked so hard to get.Hats off to you too Alber!

x said...

'creative fossilization', 'poverty of imagination' WOW! What else can I say??? Fluff you rock as usual!

And about blogger bashing lol, somebody in your family has to work extremely hard to get you to the front row, either your papa or mama, I guess these bloggers'(bryanboy, seaofshoes) parents did that(making loads of money) to put their kids at the front row! So why hate them (pun intended) ;-)

P Adhikari


Anonymous said...

Funny, we have talked a little about fashion bloggers,and BOF just posted an article about bloggers, but he even when as far to say and quote, "And while nothing delights us more than to see bloggers finally getting the attention and respect they deserve, the time has come for a bit of a social media reality check."
Getting the attention and respect they deserve!!! for what?? posting photos and rubbing shoulders with a few! come on, what's next? they think they are journalists?? well, I am sure there are a few that think that they are already. But this is a "career" that the internet created because it was there for everyone to use. One does not need an education, but a camera, put outfits on, a strange aura about oneself (a shaded view), and a few "friends", or something in that order.
I personally enjoy blogs, but now I can draw the line.
and for designers that have worked to so hard for where they are now, and to take a blogger seriously, it just show that they are sooo desperate for attention and it looses credibility. just saying...

Fluff Chance said...

Dear PAdkihari,
Thanks for reading. The post was written by Brooksie, a guest blogger, so the compliment goes to her. I'll say thanks from her, as I'm sure she appreciates your words. Take care!

Tabitha Simons said...

Awesome post Brooksie! Though not meant in the sexist way, if there is a real man among the hoardes of fashion critics then that it you!

Off the post, @P Adhikari, that was a wonderful sketch of John Galliano that you have made, after seeing him in all ridiculous ways you have given him a decent look! Did the man say anything or kept mum showing his couture behaviour?