Designer Spotlight: Rodarte

by Cassandra Matlis

What is it about Rodarte, the sister team who, in seven short seasons, have consistently managed to make shockingly original but beautifully feminine clothes that look like nothing else in the land of fashion? Maybe it's that Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who grew up in Northern California and live in Los Angeles, are design libertarians, working far outside of the style capitals, so they can let their own imaginations breathe.

The American luxury label Rodarte was founded by Kate and Laura Mulleavy in Los Angeles in 2005. Sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy came from Pasadena, California, to New York in the spring of 2005 with nothing more than a few dresses and coats stuffed in their suitcase. A week after arriving, they had shown their collection, tagged Rodarte after their mother's maiden name, to almost every major fashion editor and upscale retail buyer. What got them through the door? Tenacity and talent. A conceptual and innovative brand, Rodarte is known for its artistic mixture of high couture, modern femininity, and California influences. Still a relatively new label, Rodarte has scored the Mulleavys the 2008 CFDA Swarovski Emerging Womenswear Designer award, the 2008 Swiss Textiles Award, and quite an industry following, including Old Guard lions like Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Louboutin. For their intricately crafted, multi-layered garments and explorations into other art forms, Kate and Laura Mulleavy have won numerous awards and accolades, including the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year, United States Artists Grant, and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion in 2009; the National Arts Award from Americans for the Arts in 2010; and most recently, the Legend of Fashion Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013.

While many labels try to fit in to the molds made by already famous brands, Rodarte seeks to stand out, relying only on their creative talent for success. Their niche market is willing to spend the money on the pieces because they are unlike anything ever before created. A dress is a dress, but a Rodarte piece is one of a kind, and dare I say it, museum worthy.

“WE THOUGHT THE BEST WAY TO APPROACH BECOMING DESIGNERS WAS TO MOVE HOME AND WATCH HORROR FILMS FOR A YEAR! OUR PARENTS THOUGHT WE WERE LOSERS. WE DIDN’T TELL OUR FRIENDS." — LAURA MULLEAVY