THE MULLEAVY TWINS—TOGETHER DUBBED RODARTE—USE NATURE AND ART, ROMANCE AND DRAMA TO CREATE THAT RAREST OF FASHION ITEMS: A BRAND NEW THING
You would think that the Mulleavy sisters are twins, not the identical kind, perhaps, but there is a conjoined spirit between the two women that makes them seem more than just plain old sisters… a shared kinship that seems to go deeper, and instead of finishing each others sentences you get the sense they finish each others’ handiwork in their atelier. Kate and Laura seem to share the same thoughts, and are intertwined creatively. While most siblings bicker and feud, the Mulleavy sisters are creating some of fashion’s most important work of this century in tandem.
Older sister Kate and younger sister Laura were born to an artist mother and botanist father. The two grew up in Northern California and both landed at UC Berkeley, where Laura majored in literature, Kate in art history. That bright and informed fusion philosophies are part of what make Rodarte stand out as a true breakthrough in garment making.
The brand was officially born in 2005 when the sisters huddled down in their parent’s home in Pasadena, California and birthed their first collection of intricate dresses and coats. Rodarte, the clothing collection, was born from the sister’s interest in nature and art, romance and drama—major themes that make frequent appearances in their work.
Rodarte seemed to storm the fashion world with excitement and intrigue concerning the unlikely sisters and their coveted garments. It seemed like the fabled overnight success was coming true for the duo, which has since won a fan base of powerful editors and celebrities. In 2009, they grabbed the CFDA award for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and their creations have graced the cover of Vogue magazine and they costumed the Oscar-nominated film, Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky.
The Mulleavys recently showed their work at the MOCA in Los Angeles, the first West Coast solo exhibition of their work. They also had their first solo exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, and their designs can be found in the permanent collection of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Renowned for its expressive use of textiles, Rodarte creates unusual works through a highly elaborate and intensive reconstruction of materials. Their fabrics are often subjected to unusual methods like dying, stretching, staining, and burning before being sewn into ready-to-wear. Materials are woven, knitted, or layered together, and eclectic mixes of plaid scraps, vinyl, cheesecloth, wool, cobweb, Swarovski crystals, macramé, leather, and more are employed for the final products.
Rodarte’s designs are inspired by themes rarely approached in fashion: the California condor, local landscapes, Japanese horror films, and Frankenstein have all been wellsprings for the unique fashions created by the sisters. It could well be said that Rodarte’s clothes are truly handmade pieces of art: singular sculptural objects.
For a generation accustomed to consuming trenddriven fashion that is mass produced and cheaply made, the Rodarte sisters are even more important as new leaders in fashion. Their distinct voice can mentor and inspire new designers to be unafraid of intelligent themes and to delve into their craft with gusto. They are redefining women’s style in an era hell bent on grandiose notions of glamour and overt sex appeal. Using the body as a vessel for a creative works of art forces designers to move closer to their craft and to delve into its art for the sake of the art not merely for the pursuit of salability. MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch said, “The Mulleavy’s work transcends traditional fashion concepts and redefines the purpose of garment design.”
Shine on you crazy Mulleavy diamonds!