02/12/2013 04:05 EST | Updated 04/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Laura and Kate Mulleavy channel their Northern California roots for fall collection

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Rodarte designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy grew up in sunny Santa Cruz, Calif., and for their fall collection, they've created clothes that evoke their seaside hometown.

But perhaps only to them. "It's really our own version of it," Laura Mulleavy said backstage after Tuesday's runway show in a downtown gallery space.

The beachy feel came across most strongly in prints — especially a tie-dye motif in silk satin, which appeared in a host of flowing gowns in pink, blue, red and black.

There were even some Grateful Dead references in the mix — with the iconic Northern California band appearing via brilliant red-rose embroidery on the fanciest dresses, along with Swarovski crystals.

In the collection's most unusual element, many of the tie-dye gowns were embellished with large, futuristic-looking collars and other attached pieces made of what the sisters call 3-D double-faced foam. That was less about Santa Cruz and more about a design choice, explained Laura Mulleavy.

"We wanted to build on some structure as a contrast, so a garment wasn't all print," she said. "Something minimal and modern."

Aside from the prints, which included a recurring acid-wash motif, there was basic black, too. The show opened with a look combining two trends seen a lot this Fashion Week: a very roomy black suede trench coat, over black shorts. A leather version of the same large trench followed.

There were also some very pretty monochromatic dresses: A nude silk embroidered dress with silk chiffon ruffles, to be worn only by the fairly confident (it was sheer) and an equally pretty white silk version.

Speaking of nude, those weren't real tattoos the models had on their legs, if you were looking that far down: It was tattoo art by Scott Campbell, yet another quirky detail that makes Rodarte shows so interesting.