5 Minutes with Rodarte Founders, Kate and Laura Mulleavy

By Butterboom Writers  /  April 26, 2010

The sister sensation in Hong Kong for an exhibition in aid of UNICEF.

Acclaimed fashion label Rodarte, founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, has had unfathomable success ever since appearing on the fashion scene with their romantic, hand-finished, couture quality collections. We caught up with them recently as they hosted an exclusive exhibition, silent auction and series of private events with all proceeds going to UNICEF.

In particular, four unique handmade creations specially designed by the sisters were presented to the cause, each inspired by actress Maggie Cheung and her films: In the Mood for Love, Hero, Clean and Heroic Trio.  The girls told us about their personal style and how they’ve dealt with world fame.

Butterboom: Where do you get your inspiration, do you have a muse?

Kate Mulleavy: We design each collection in terms of what we are feeling at that moment.  We never think of anyone specifically. In many ways, ruin or decay is a central theme in our approach to design, I remember a huge earthquake one summer when I was standing in our kitchen and, within seconds, every porcelain plate, bowl and glass cup had literally flown off the shelves and shattered on the floor around me. I was mesmerized by the debris as a broken plate will always be more interesting to myself and Laura than a perfect, untouched object. The value is in the stain, shadow, smudge or tear. We are attracted to imperfection and to the beauty of chaos.

Butterboom: How did the inspiration for this particular collection come about?

Kate Mulleavy: Fall 2010 explores the idea of sleepwalking and in-between states of consciousness and place. We became interested in Juarez, a border town that exists in constant transition at the Mexican-American crossing. This area has a haunted, hazy melancholy like a ’50s song radiated from a broken-down steel blue truck. The Mexican workers walking to the Juarez factories in the middle of the night half-asleep had a profound impact on us. The idea of dreaming/sleepwalking guided the development of the collection in that we imagined a girl dressing herself haphazardly in the dark of night.

Butterboom: What’s your style known for?

Laura Mulleavy: We’re a unique voice that explores the idea of perfection through the lens of imperfection.

Butterboom: Can you tell us some of the celebrities you’ve designed for and what was the most unique yet bizarre item you ever designed for a celebrity?

Kate and Laura Mulleavy: Nan Goldin and David Armstrong are our favorites who we made special sweaters for! We love making things for Kirsten Dunst, Kim Gordon, Karen Kilimnik and Natalie Portman.

Butterboom: Do you think you’re in an enviable position being such a high profile brand? What kind of freedom does that give you?

Laura Mulleavy: We can never express how amazing it is to have people take notice and appreciate our work. The path we took allowed us to think differently and to figure out our own aesthetic voice. In that sense, we would never want to approach what we do in a more conventional way.

Butterboom: Do you look for synergy in your designs or do you regard it as working on a captivating piece of art?

Laura Mulleavy: We design from a personal place, so in many ways everything is connected to us. Each season develops in a natural way.
Kate Mulleavy: For example, our trip to Death Valley inspired the Spring 2010 show. The landscape in Death Valley is completely alien and isolated. Anything left behind is immediately overcome by the land. Old cars rust, clothes appear burnt or sun bleached, flowers fade, living organisms become bone and dust. Spring 2010 explored ruin and decay within the desert landscape.

Butterboom: First item you ever designed?

Kate and Laura Mulleavy: We designed costumes for plays we created as children.

Butterboom: If you weren’t designers what would you be?

Kate and Laura Mulleavy: Make movies!

– By Monisha Daryanani


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