Violet coat, fall/winter 2005–06

Narciso Rodriguez

Location: New York, New York
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Narciso Rodriguez’s love of modern architecture is at the core of his elegantly minimal womenswear designs. When asked to name his favorite architect, Rodriguez answers, without hesitating for a second, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The influence of van der Rohe and other early twentieth-century modernists does not appear in Rodriguez’s work as direct architectural references, but in the way he develops his forms from an innate understanding and appreciation of structure and material. In his iconic Seagram Building, van der Rohe exposed and emphasized the simple beauty of the building’s structural I-beams, expressing his belief that less is often more. Rodriguez shares that belief: he strips his garments of any extraneous detail and lets the seams of his meticulously constructed clothes serve as the only form of ornament. He also uses seaming for structure and to create interesting lines and shapes, and will spend hours obsessively draping and fitting a garment on a live model, marking, taping, and retaping fit lines until the shape and proportions are perfect. A bold graphic sensibility is another important aspect of Rodriguez’s work. He designs primarily in black and white for this reason, and uses the contrast to achieve a sharp, clean silhouette. Seams are highlighted in a contrasting color, and pieces of fabric are inserted or extracted from a garment to mark points on the body—waist, hips, bust, and back. Shifts in materiality or color underline a garment’s architectonic construction.

Several seasons ago, Rodriguez introduced greater volume in his clothes; while tops remained sculptural and precise, skirts made of flowing fabrics draped softly in a more overtly feminine way. Sexy and prim, bound and unbound—Rodriguez successfully incorporates both ends of the spectrum in the way he blends the classic with the modern. He describes his style as American (the practical streamlined tailoring) with a European influence (the tradition and craftsmanship of haute-couture fashion) and a Latin heart (his own Cuban-American heritage).