Kate and Laura Mulleavy showed a 21-piece collection today that was exceptional in its sophistication. The self-taught designers are obsessed with how clothes are made—stitch by stitch, bead by bead. They'll study Chanel couture to learn a technique, painstakingly hand-stitch a dress, chase down rhinestones from the twenties… whatever it takes to realize their vision. For fall, they said they were "intent on doing very soft abstractions," so they worked their signature "waves"—ruffles of fabric which seem to float on the surface of garments—onto jackets worn with slim pants, and into the folds of accordion-pleated dresses. You could call it poetry in motion.

Each piece seemed to have been conceived in the round, with the back of the garments as carefully ornamented as the front. One pleated dress with quivery tendrils fore was artfully shredded aft. A scallop-trimmed coat, meanwhile, was a feat of detailed stitching; each flap, the sisters explained, was satin-backed, lined, and faced. Of course, all this handwork translates into some bracing prices, and Rodarte is emphatically not for day dressing. But the pleasure the sisters clearly take in their work is contagious.