Bonnie J Brown
Rodarte. The name seems to elicit an image of modern art hanging on gallery walls, being admired by a mix of beatnik-hipster types, socialites and celebrities alike. However, Rodarte is not art, at least not in the typical sense and definitely not the kind that hangs on walls. Instead, Rodarte is an avant garde clothing and accessories line that people, at least the wealthy or lucky ones, don.
The fashion label was founded by sisters, Kate and Laura Mulleavy in 2005 and named after their mother’s maiden name. Their debut, which featured a 10 piece, hand-made collection was prestigiously featured on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily. Their premier collection also caught the famous editing eye of Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of U.S. Vogue. Rodarte was almost immediately picked up and sold in many high-end department stores, including Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, among others. While Rodarte has gone mainstream within the last couple of years, by producing and collaborating with the Gap and Target stores, they are traditionally a very niche brand who happens to dress celebrities who enjoy a very unique look. Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny and Dita von Teese are just a few stars who’ve worn Rodarte pieces on the red carpet.
Rodarte’s unique look and avant garde essence could very well come from the fact that the Mulleavy sisters are not traditionally trained in fashion production; both graduated from U.C. Berkeley with art history majors. Having an artistic background, the sisters create their garments a similar way an artist may paint a picture, by using and overlapping layers of media. In the Mulleavy’s case the media is fabric that has been dyed, torn, ripped, burned and distressed before finally being painstakingly constructed into wearable pieces of art, or more aptly considered – couture. The end result depicts the sisters’ futuristic and dreamlike visions; incorporating delicate materials which have been transformed into strong, confident and often thought-provoking pieces.
Because of Rodarte’s artistic approach in designing clothing, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York displayed the exhibit: Quicktake: Rodarte, this past winter. The exhibit gave people the chance to view and appreciate the intricate detailing and craftsmanship that goes into Rodarte’s pieces. With the many awards that Rodarte has achieved within the last five years of designing, it is only fair to allow everyone the chance to appreciate the garments, not just those who can afford to wear it.
Sources: pbs.org; nymag.com; style.com; wikipedia.com; cooperhewitt.org
Image Layout: Laura Funk