I think this is going to be the third time that I am actually writing about the Quicktake: Rodarte exhibition that is going on at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (through March 14th). If you have not yet seen this small, yet very impressive (I even want to say “marvelous”) exhibit, then I suggest that you make an effort because it is certainly worth it. Lately whenever I have attended an exhibit devoted to fashion, I was always struck by how theatrical and extensive it was. The Costume Institute always puts on grand productions and the museum at F.I.T is quite academic in their approach. I think this is why I am so enamored by what the Cooper-Hewitt did with their Quicktake show: they let the clothes speak for themselves. Yes, there are decorative backdrops and there is text (although a teeny amount) but the rest is pure fashion. The clothes, along with the spiky heels by Christian Louboutin or Nicholas Kirkwood, are straight off the runway. I was drooling the entire time.
The Mulleavy sisters, Kate and Laura, have won a lot of accolades since the founding of their fashion house, five years ago, and they are all well deserved. Some of their more recent collections have been a combination of influences: Japanese horror films, the California Condors, deconstructed Victorian homes, and Frankenstein. For this particular exhibition the underlying theme was decay and deconstruction. These two women are modern-day couturiers. Each garment is created by hand and each piece is unique, no two are alike. Perhaps instead of calling them fashion designers, we should call them artists, as they never received formal training in fashion design nor do they look back on fashion history for influences or reference other designers. And most importantly, they do not follow trends. They do not need to. They only follow their imaginations and allow their creativity to take charge. The results are garments which are a kaleidoscope of colors, materials and textures. My one complaint about the exhibition is that the clothes seem far away, they aren’t, because you just want to touch them and hold them close to examine them.
Last fall the designers created a capsule collection for Target. I was lucky enough to buy a cocktail dress but worried that it was probably just made for Target and didn’t have much to do with their actual designs. I was happy to find out otherwise while examining the clothes at the Cooper-Hewitt, some of the stitching and ruching on the skirts were the same as on my Target dress. Kate and Laura have become the darlings of the fashion world, models, editors and socialites (and also regular folks thanks to Target) all wear their clothes. And after seeing the collections up close and personal, it is not hard to see why.
The goal of these Cooper-Hewitt Quicktake exhibitions is to provide museum goers with an opportunity to see the most creative artists currently working; it is not a retrospective of their work but an introduction. With Rodarte, we have so much more to look forward to.
Image 1: Installation Shot of Quikctake:Rodarte, Image courtest of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Photo:Carmel Wilson. Image 2: Designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy at the opening of the Quicktake exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt. Photo: Patrick McMullan.