August 5, 2009

Designers to watch: Rodarte

Many high-end designers seem to be on the same invisible wavelength, spontaneously creating nearly identical versions of a mutton-sleeve blazer or drape-front pants for the very same season's runway shows. Not so with Rodarte, designed by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, which marches to a beat all its own — inspired not by other designers, but by a fantasy world of fairies, Frankenstein, and Japanese cartoons.

Season after season, the sisters pull out yet another beautifully hued collection of dresses and tights patchworked from their usual repertoire of draped, diaphanous fabrics; spidery, irregular knits; and tough, shiny leather. And every time, the fashion world goes wild: most recently, the CFDA bestowed upon them its 2009 Womenswear Designer of the Year award; and at the end of this year, theirs will be the latest of Target's Go International designer collaborations, launching Dec. 20.

While the collabos have garnered plenty of column inches in the fashion media, it seems doubtful that Target's core shopper really appreciates the edgy young designers the budget department store chain has been featuring, including Luella, Jonathan Saunders, and Erin Fetherston. Previous collections have been marked down to almost nothing, and this spring's much-hyped Alexander McQueen for Target launch was a bust: even here in fashion-forward New York, the pop-up store was nearly empty after early shoppers picked off the best pieces, and we've seen a large quantity of apparently unsold collection pieces pop up in local thrift stores, albeit with their original tags removed. Rodarte-obsessed fashionistas will undoubtedly plunder the upcoming collection as it hits big-city stores, but can this ultra-luxury brand cross over to the mass market? We'll just have to wait and see.

Photos: A few of Rodarte's relatively marketable looks, via
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