The magic letter is R.
Fashion Week is only as brutal as the weather outside. You see the coats, you want the heat-tech trousers, you can’t have the sweaters. But where a fall/winter season really meets triumph isn’t as much in eliciting that impending sense of need you now, though that visceral reaction is key, it’s in how far the clothes can take your mind. And when Rosie Assoulin is on your map, you’re left with no choice but transatlantic travel.
With her floor-grazing velvet and houndstooth slit jackets, white poplin neckerchief blouses, wool ankle-length tulip skirts and the bravura in evening wear replete with her signature faille and new velvet fit for a gala or simple walk through the park (sneakers notwithstanding), Rosie Assoulin has, in her tender three seasons, manufactured a deeply consistent brand identity. As the designer’s mother so astutely put it at her presentation, her magic is in her untrammeled ability to remain Rosie but deliver that effusive wow-effect.
Frankly, she’s not creating new silhouettes, she’s just enhancing the ones that already exist. (The X-Pro to your iPhone photo, if you will). And when she does, you’re uncomfortable with how foreign the clothes make you feel until this beautifully antithetical feeling of belonging and familiarity — one that renders everything you’ve believed to be fact in the matter of style heretofore obsolete — completely overtakes you. You not just wonder if you can be her girl, you urgently remark that you will be her girl.
It’s not as easy to peg just one woman at Rodarte, who delivered a resplendent new take on their own aesthetic yesterday, combining the identities of an ethereal Dakota Fanning (who sat front row next to one Anna Wintour) in the opening, floor-length chartreuse looks, a mischievous French librarian (cue the beret, the Oliver Peoples eyeglasses, the off the shoulder, elastic blouses coupled with interior turtlenecks and lame skirts), the relentless Rodarte fan (yarn, yarn, yarn), disco (the jackets! Sans shoulders!), a little bit of spain (the velvet, the lace), and, finally, a new homage to outer-space in a capacity that is not at all derivative of Nicolas Ghesquiere’s spring/summer 2012 collection for Balenciaga.
I haven’t had that much fun at a fashion show since the first time I sneaked into Dior at the Tuileries in 2009.
And see, that’s the thing about Rodarte. The attention to detail and craftsmanship does not at all go compromised — sure Luke Skywalker found himself exploring the upper half of a model’s lower half, but do you see that drapery? — even when creating a good and clean, but chiefly fun experience.
While fun might not be the first word that comes to mind when Narciso Rodriguez is on the needle, that same sense of effortless craftsmanship certainly does. Last night, in a small venue tucked into 38th street, he showed his fall/winter collection, complete with structured jackets and a micro-army of blood orange sheaths, skinny pants and one particular white long sleeve mullet blouse that reconfirmed a conjecture of mine.
Where there are blaring trends, you might find Rodriguez quietly operating on the sideline, acknowledging the trajectory, choosing to dispose of what is superfluous and champion what is necessary. In a vein similar to that of Derek Lam’s, Rodriguez understands where his talents rest.
My dad once told me that I shouldn’t try to perfect my deficiencies — they will always be deficiencies. He said to work on what I’m good at and make myself the best. In lieu of trying new tricks, Rodriguez seems to adhere to a similar bite of advice in assiduously making not better but best what he knows he’s good at making.