The talented newcomers who were nominated by the CFDA this past year for Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Womens wear (alas, they did not win- the honor went to Doo. Ri) seem to be far too young to be churning out such amazingly sophisticated, dramatic, and rigorously designed pieces that mirror couture. Nothing about Rodarte’s designing duo (Kate and Laura Mulleavy) is commonplace, predictable, or ordinary. The talented newcomers: hardworking, unassuming California natives whose youth (Kate is 27, Laura is 25) belies the sophistication, drama, ambitious conceptualization and amazing execution of their couture quality designs, are so in sync with one another that, by their own admission - they “are like one”. Their creative collaboration, which has grabbed the attention of the fashion world, perfectly illustrates this harmony. Admittedly inspired by artwork, textures, landscapes, marbleized sculptures, and swirling forms that are “modern and ancient at the same time”, for them, it’s all about “the beauty of construction” and making “unique garments that are timeless”. They prefer not to ‘study’ fashion magazines or the work of other designers but rather, rely on their own instincts.

And those instincts as they relate to spring 2007, were very much in evidence at the Dia Center for the Arts with heavy hitters like Anna Wintour, our own Christine Suppes (who was in town for the occasion) and top brass from Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman watching a parade of 26 outfits (mostly dresses, many with exaggerated volume, that fell to just below the knee; although there were several astoundingly constructed pantsuits in black or white) that were mind boggling in their ambitious concept and execution.

Working in a very couture like neutral color palette (black, white, grey) with hits of vibrant fuchsia and flamingo pink, the focus was on volume, shape, construction, and artistic decoration which took the form of stiff bows, life like flowers, organza ‘waves’ (a signature) that decorated bodices, hips, and backs of dresses and tops. Sometimes all the aforementioned were used together but for me, the standouts were the pieces that were a bit more restrained and less ornamental. Like the first look out: a collarless and sculptural drop waist coat in heavy black triple gazar that exaggeratedly curved over the hips; the black lacquered dress with nude organza ‘waves’ as decoration; the arresting padded fuchsia organza skirt with bow belt and hot pink wool lantern sleeved jacket decorated with fuchsia organza waves. Though I’d have to say my favorite ( since I always love the combination of black and white) was the sleeveless, fitted through the top and curving out over the hips, white silk tulle dress over horsehair, with black cross hatched design, featuring an enormous black vintage flower at the neck and trimmed with black ostrich at the hemline.

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