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If anything gives truth to the qsaying ‘two minds are better than one’, its the sisters behind Rodarte. While designer duos have been around for quite some time, the 21st Century has spit them out like Goldsmith’s spit out the YBA’s in the 80’s. Rag & Bone, Proenza Schouler and Sass & Bide are just a few of Rodarte’s team-driven contemporaries. California-born Kate and Laura Mulleavy grew up in Aptos California, and eventually transitioned to Pasadena where Rodarte was born in 2005. “As long as I can remember creating anything, it was always with Laura. I don’t think I could ever be a fashion designer without her.” The girls have always stuck together. Both attended Berkeley prior to becoming designers. Kate majored in Art History with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries, while Laura began in Biology, but quickly switched to English. In 2001, following their graduation, the girls moved back home with their parents in order to scrape a bit of money together. In an attempt to follow their childhood dreams of becoming fashion designers, they sold their father’s valuable record collection and managed to raise approximately $10,000. But instead of heading to fashion school, the two decided to saturate their minds with horror films. “I didn’t want to be an English professor, and Kate didn’t want to work in museums. We wanted to design. So we thought the best way to approach becoming designers was to move home and watch horror films for a year!”

In 2005 the sisters were able to translate the money they had gathered, along with horror films they had watched, into a ten piece collection. With it the Mulleavy’s headed for New York where they were immediately praised by Women’s Wear Daily and shortly after, Anna Wintour. No big deal. Their unconventional strategy has certainly paid off as Rodarte continues to present us with an exquisite use of texture and colour. Their unusual combination of materials evokes a tense beauty. The designs are at once gothic, deconstructed and fiercely punk, whilst remaining highly feminine and often reminiscent of a delicate tutu classic of a Russian ballet. Following their well-received spring 2007 collection, Rodarte was awarded runner-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition held in fall of 2006. The award gave the girls opportunity to receive mentorship from major powerhouses in the industry, such as Gucci Group’s senior vice president James McArthur. Season after season, cinema continues to be a prevalent source of inspiration for the girls’ work. Films such as The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby and A Tale of Two Sisters provide a point of reference which informs their collections both visually and conceptually. When it comes to their practice, the sisters approach design very differently. Kate discloses, “Once we have our concept for a collection, Laura will say, ‘This is the silhouette, and this is how it fits.’ Laura is very logical and precise...whereas I sometimes


re working horror in the 21st century

Words by Stephanie Waknine

must not only be creatively talented, but business savvy as well. And while the pieces may be phenomenal works of art in their own right, the sisters have proven that they are capable of commercial success. Their horrorstruck ballerina dresses boast well with international it-girls such as Emma Watson, Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Portman and Keira Knightly; not to mention Michelle Obama. But the industry was most convinced of the designer’s bankability after Rodarte’s collaboration with The Gap in 2007. The design edition white shirts, created along with fellow American designers Thakoon, Threeasfour and Doo Ri, graced the May cover of American Vogue that year and sold out nation-wide. Following their project with The Gap, the sisters were granted membership to be part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In June 2008 they were awarded as the CFDA’s Swarovski Emerging Womenswear Designer, and in November 2008 they won the prestigious Swiss Textile award (winners in previous years include Raf Simons, Haider Ackerman and Marios Schwab). Finally, in the summer of 2009, Rodarte was titled Womenswear Designer of the Year by the CFDA. For their most recent collection, the sisters brought a whole new level of sophistication to the notion of rags and tribal influences. The girl on Rodarte’s spring/summer runway, part gothic Pocahontas, part Schumacher’s Lost Boys, donned spiked trouser, deep purple lipstick, and delicately crafted knit dresses made from any and every material imagin-

able. A fairytale-like mist covered their runway and emphasised the girl’s passion for the horror genre. Nonetheless, their highly detailed textiles remind us how the Mulleavy’s manage to stay away from the ordinary and continuously remain ahead of the fashion world both aesthetically and conceptually. Their collections have gone on to enter the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Fashion Institution of Technology Museum, both in New York, proving their work as significant artefacts of its time. Rodarte is the fantastical, futuristic product of the contemporary post-modern world. Their consistent gothic undertones and mélange of media seem extremely appropriate and of-the-moment. The one-shoulder, cob-web silhouette is quickly becoming Rodarte’s signature. A shape so recognisable is critical to the staying power of a designer; cue the Chanel suit. Looks like Rodarte will impact the fashion world for years to come. Images courtesy of and

1930’s chiffon Dress (worn as top) - Merchant rchive £185 1970’s Playsuit - Merchant archive - £125 Necklace - Ada Zanditon @ beyond the valley £195 shoes (not seen) - stylists own

Dress - RoxyHeart @ Beyond the valley £175 Belt - Topshop £15 Bustier - Topshop £28 Necklace - Kapow! Wow! @ beyonf the valley £85 Gloves - Chicka Ito (price on request) Shoes - models own

Jacket - Chicka ito (price on request) Top - Topshop £18 Vinatge Lanvin wool Trousers - Merchant archive £300 Necklace - Illkerope @ beyond the valley £375

Dress - Harriet Stone (price on request) Top - Topshop ÂŁ45 Lace collar - stylists own Head band - stylist own

Put it on Photography - Naomi James Stylist - Holly Roberts Hair and Make-up - Lucy Pearson Model - aleisha brookesmith

Jacket - Harriet Stone (price on request) Leather waistcoat - stylists own Leather gloves - stylists own Ring - stylists own

Playsuit - absolute vintage ÂŁ24 Cardigan - stylists own Leather jacket - absolute vintage ÂŁ35 Gillet - Harriet Stone Neckace - stylists own

Valanne Mag  

a little piece of me

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