Rodarte : Kate and Laura Mulleavy - the Fashion Spot
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Rodarte : Kate and Laura Mulleavy
Sisters' designs are taking off
By Booth Moore, Times Staff Writer

The Mercedes-Benz shows at Smashbox Studios may get a lot of attention, but the hottest new design duo to come out of Southern California for fall didn't even show on the runway. Sister act Kate and Laura Mulleavy wrote a letter to vintage guru Cameron Silver and charmed him so with their 10-piece Rodarte collection that he invited them to set up shop during L.A. Fashion Week at his Melrose Avenue store Decades.

And although the fledgling designers don't have any formal fashion training, their clothes will soon land in some of the best boutiques in the country, including L.A.'s Satine, Houston's Mix, Chicago's Ikram and New York's Kirna Zabete. On top of that, the Mulleavy sisters managed to score a private audience with Vogue's Anna Wintour when she was in town.

About as far from Silver Lake hipsters as you can get, the twentysomethings live in a cottage in back of their grandparents' Pasadena house. They moved in shortly after graduating from UC Berkeley, Kate earning a degree in art history and Laura a degree in English literature.

Rodarte — their mother's maiden name — is about Hollywood. Carole Lombard is a heroine of the designers, and their bias-cut dresses — one in a sage green silk with a blouson top and a double layer of pinked georgette strips for a skirt — are definitely starlet garb. And a black wool crepe coat with saffron satin-lined angel wing sleeves bears a passing resemblance to the work of costumer Gilbert Adrian.

But the collection — priced from $1,300 to $2,025 — is also about the romantic naturalism of the West. The sisters grew up in Santa Cruz and are obsessed with Sequoia National Park. One of their best dresses has a black wool crepe bodice constructed from staggered strips of stiff fabric that bring to mind tree trunks, the skirt in a delicate flowing satin. The brown raw silk "Amelia Earhart coat" is a one-pocket trench with a curved vent in back. And a military coat comes in black double-faced wool with a thin row of pheasant feathers down the placket and delicate organza inserts at the sides.

"Some designers are great storytellers," Kate said. "And some are more like architects. Our approach is personal, almost as if we are opening up to everyone our family history, our love of art and film, and our relationship to California."

On a recent visit to the pair's house, decorated with Mexican dolls, quilted pillows and an antique chest, tales about the Mulleavy family — half Mexican and half Italian — tumble out. "Our grandpa arrived from Mexico on a stagecoach," said Laura, who works as a waitress at night. "Our grandma came to L.A. during World War I from Rome, and her uncle owned the Marcell Inn, an Italian restaurant in the Valley that all the stars used to go to. They wrote about it in Harper's Bazaar."

"Our great-grandmother, she smoked cigarettes out of a bobby pin," Kate added, producing a black-and-white photo of a diva-like figure standing in front of a horse. "It's the small things that fascinate you about people."

The designers' rapid ascent has prompted such questions as "who do you know?" But so far, they have achieved success on the goodwill of the fashion industry (yes, apparently it exists).

"Without any formal fashion training, they have created a collection that is on the pulse of what a stylish woman wants to wear and are succeeding because their talent is genuine, their personalities are infectious, and they have the perfect blend of charm and chutzpah," said Silver. "If I were a traditional retailer, I would have bought every piece. And when we had the collection on display at the store during L.A. Fashion Week, clients were so gung-ho that they wanted to buy the entire collection for their personal wardrobes."

After the sisters contacted him last year, Silver got look books from their first collection to Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and other retailers. The initial response was positive, so the designers headed to New York with their second collection in February and another batch of look books — sets of paper dolls that Kate made by hand.

They didn't have a single appointment scheduled until Women's Wear Daily called them in. The meeting went well, and Rodarte ended up on the cover of the fashion industry bible, which is almost unheard of for a start-up label.

"Then everything started to fall into place," Kate said. "And when Cameron called us and said Anna Wintour wanted a private viewing, Laura and I drove off the road."

LA Times
from the Fall 2005 Collection.......

Oceans of angels, oceans of stars
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Homosexuality is God's way of insuring that the truly gifted aren't burdened with children.
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doing it
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That was nice to read -- thanks for posting.
I really like the garments. And you can really see in the clothes the nostalgic feeling the sisters have for the days of their grandparents.

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Thanks for posting, Spacemiu
Looks very good, but...those prices! WTF??? I'll be interested to see whether this takes off or not.

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how cute! i love their story.

and i LOVE the amelia coat!

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Vogue Paris April 2008 (HQs)
Soeurs de sang
Photographed by David Armstrong
Styled by Julia von Boehm

scanned by Diorette

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lovely story,diorette....thank you!

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Seven Questions for Rodarte's Kate Mulleavy

A few years ago, Kate and Laura Mulleavy got some good advice. "We had designed ten pieces of clothing and we didn't really know what to do with them," says Kate. "And someone told us, 'Maybe you guys should go to New York.'" And so they did. After a plane ride from Los Angeles, a blizzard, and a train ride from Boston, they were in Manhattan for the first time in their lives. Within two days, Women's Wear Daily had called them in for a chat that would lead to their Rodarte collection being featured on the coveted cover of WWD. Today, having won both critical acclaim and industry support as well as the 2008 Swarovski Award for Womenswear for their otherworldly designs, the Mulleavys are among fashion's brightest young stars. After a whirlwind fashion week, Kate Mulleavy (at left in the above photo, with sister Laura and model Liya Kebede) took time to answer our seven questions.

1. What was the inspiration for your spring 2009 collection?
Our spring collection was really inspired by Robert Smithson and earth or site-specific art. In a strange way, Laura and I were really interested in the idea of looking at works by Smithson and exploring the idea of remnants, so we kind of played with the idea of fossils, of skeletal shapes and silhouettes. And that's really what we based the collection off of. In a lot ways, it was a mixture between science fiction and site-specific art. I think that the link in our mind was what's left—this idea of remnants—and we kind of explored that in the show, which moved toward lightness and playing with color, borrowing from different science fiction palettes and this idea of outer space toward the end of the show.

2. How does your design process work? How do you work together to go from your inspiration to the finished looks?
Basically, the way we work is that we have an inspiration at the beginning of the collection—for spring, Laura and I were really fascinated by and thinking about artists that we really admire and have loved for a long time, someone like Smithson, and just really exploring how that art was created after the Apollo missions, and that was the first time that anyone had seen the earth from outside of itself. So there was a very specific kind of moment that we were interested in exploring in the collection and then that brought in different film inspirations, whether it be a film like Donnie Darko or Star Wars. There's a lot of different film inspirations, and then just different artists. So we tend to work in a very abstract way, and the collection unfolds that way usually. We don't just center on any kind of literal translation of our ideas. It's more of a feeling or a moment that we like to capture.

3. You and Laura are both self-taught. How did you gain your design skills?
In all honesty, it's just a lot of trial and error. We look at what we were doing at the beginning and see how it's evolved slowly. We work a lot with tulle and draping, and that's just kind of evolved from collection to collection. We are not afraid of trying new things. We always worked from the very beginning with a small team of people, and I think that we learned a lot from them. I think that we jumped right into the idea of designing, but I think at the same time, there's so much to learn every season that the learning process will span our career. We're always learning. So I think that they we weren't intimidated by that, but we were also really open to knowing that there's so much that you do have to learn and absorb, so just to take it one step at a time.

4. Much of your inspiration comes from the worlds of art and film and from other cultures. Are there other fashion designers that have been inspirational or that you admire?
Vivienne Westwood is someone that I greatly admire, because I think she changed the modern eye. Everything readjusted after what she did, so now it's an aesthetic that people are familiar with. She really came in and did something that was completeley groundbreaking and then popular culture had to readjust to it, which is really fascinating. Not many designers can say that they've done that. And then Karl Lagerfeld, he makes one of the most beautiful couture collections. So I would say those two.

5. What was the last book that you read?
In Youth Is Pleasure by Denton Welch

6. What was the last film that you saw?

I think the last film I saw in a theater was WALL-E.

7. And finally, what would you say has been your proudest design moment?
My proudest design moment was probably seeing a dress that we had made in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. / september 18.2009

j'adore couture (life in fashion and in print)
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^^^ thanks for the article.

They have really interesting inspirations from films and art.

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Interview October 2008

my scans


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^ Karma for that!

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Natalie Portman wore Rodarte to the Oscar's.

While her onstage appearance with Ben Stiller was one of the funnier moments of the night all I could think about was Natalie Portman’s incredible gown. All eyes were definitely on Natalie when she walked the red carpet and graced the stage in this Grecian Rodarte gown. Channelling old school Hollywood glamour the award winning actress totally nailed it. I love the tiny rainbow coloured glimmer that is sparsely spread across the bodice. It’s the perfect finish to a perfect gown.



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This is a Rodarte's fashion sketch


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Rodarte's collections are so amazing! I'm allways so inspired by them and so sometimes I make some clothes by myself.

~my looks blog~ * ~my street fashion blog~
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i loved their fall collection for 09.10...simply beautiful!

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