Rodarte Laura and Kate Mulleavy

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A lot has happened for Kate and Laura Mulleavy in the 13-plus years since they arrived in New York with a “giant box” housing their first Rodarte collection comprising ten hand-finished pieces. For starters, the sibling duo has designed some of the most imaginative and visually provocative collections to grace the runways in the history of contemporary fashion, whilst at the same time, continuously subverting conventional fashion trends in favor of the exquisite, splendid, and otherworldly. In doing so, the brand has not merely survived, but thrived in the global arena. Additionally, the designers have received rightful praise for their costume work—perhaps most notably the ballet costumes created for Black Swan; penned and directed their own feature film, the dark and hypnotic Woodshock, starring Kirsten Dunst; and won almost every award worth knowing about.

Amid it all, Kate and Laura decamped to Paris couture week to present their Spring 2018 collection before making a triumphant and very welcome return to NYFW this September. In the days leading up to Rodarte’s highly anticipated show in the New York City Marble Cemetery, we caught up with Kate and Laura to talk about everything from NYFW rituals to their undying love of old Hollywood films to the spirit and energy of New York, the city where they got their start.

How do you stay grounded during NYFW; any daily rituals or creature comforts, in particular, that help you stay sane?

Our best friend, Autumn de Wilde, always plans a birthday dinner for us as we have fashion week birthdays. All our friends who work on the show come—stylists Shirley Kurata and Ashley Furnival, our music consultant, Zach Cowie, and our friends from LA. This is something to look forward to each season as our friends that gather in NYC for our show have a second event to look forward to!

After showing the last few seasons in Paris, Rodarte is showing once again at NYFW; what inspired the return?

We have been working on our exhibit with the National Museum for Women in the Arts, which opens November 9 in Washington, DC. It has been so inspiring to revisit our collections, and doing so has brought up many emotional moments and memories!

As the story goes, in spring 2005, you arrived in New York with a small collection that gained fast traction among editors and buyers, and within days, your designs appeared on the cover of WWD. What do you recall most vividly about this time?  

It was our first trip to NYC and we stayed at our friend Jen Kim’s apartment. She was in school for art conservation. We had taken our clothes to NYC in a giant box, and they sat in the box in her small apartment on the Lower East Side, next to a faux Byzantine Icon she was in charge of restoring.

More than a decade on, you find yourselves back in New York with a new collection. How does it feel to be back? What do you enjoy most about New York during fashion week?

The energy of the city is incredible. Last September, we were here for the NYC film premiere of our directorial debut, Woodshock, with A24. It was wonderful to enjoy the spirit of NYC outside of fashion and to give us a sense of the city in a new way. NYC has such an incredible power!  

If you could ascribe your latest collection a feeling, what would it be?

The feeling is pure.

Cinema has played an integral role in your creative narrative. When did your love of cinema begin? What films have left a strong impression on you and your creative development?

We love film and have always loved film. We used to rent VHS tapes from a store in Aptos that was housed through an old fallen tree. So our relationship to film has, in a way, always been romantic and dreamlike. We loved old Hollywood films when we were young, as our mother always did and still does watch the TCM channel all the time. We love films that can be found on FilmStruck and within the Criterion catalogue. Films by Agnes Varda, Lina Wertmuller, Chantal Akerman, Julie Dash, Ida Lupino, Maya Deren, Claire Denis, Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion, and others.

Do you pursue passion projects outside of fashion?

Yes, we always look outside of fashion to other creative endeavors. Currently, we are writing our second film!

Can you tell us your favorite New York spots to…

Eat a classic New York dish?

Cartoonist and illustrator Jess Rotter shared with us the magic list: bagels and lox from Russ & Daughters, a slice from John’s Pizza, the tuna melt at Eisenbergs, and a Martini at Bemelmans.

Get your art fix?

All of the amazing museums: MoMA, the Met, the Met Breuer, the Whitney, Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Guggenheim.

Catch a movie?

We used to love going to premieres at the Ziegfeld Theater before it closed.

Find inspiration?

The Shelves of the NYPL.

WORDS Edwina Hagon

PHOTOGRAPHY Sally Griffiths

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