Kate & Laura Mulleavy

Kate & Laura Mulleavy

words by LUCY BULLINGFashion

"The only thing that a designer has to offer in the world of fashion is their individual vision and voice. It is so important to stay distinct".

Sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy, the design pair behind the whimsical American fashion house, Rodarte have created an aesthetic beloved by consumers, celebrities, and editors everywhere. Their collections, often inspired by art and design, stormed the fashion industry in 2005 and have been consistently strong ever since. Whether they are creating looks for their A-list clientele or coming up with custom pieces for exhibits and films, Laura and Kate stay true to themselves; creating unique pieces that withstand the ever-changing fashion industry. 

As the duo approaches their 15th anniversary, we had the fortunate opportunity to speak with them about their career and journey over the years. 

JVB: Rodarte is reaching its 15th anniversary. How do you keep the inspiration flowing?

K&L: We try to keep our eyes open. We are observers and feel the need to tell stories in any way that we can. We spend time traveling, going to museums, seeing concerts… and sharing with friends, who constantly inspire.

JVB: How has your relationship as sisters and partners changed after being business together for so long?

K&L: We have learned to listen to one another, and to know how each other’s minds work within the process. From the starting conception point to the end design, our minds work differently from one another’s. It is important to understand how your design partner thinks in order to know how to balance their feelings on a collection and design ideas.

JVB: A big component of your work is doing things on your terms, which I find really empowering as this industry can box you in without you even knowing it. How much of an influence does this ethos have on the vision you are able to cultivate with Rodarte?

K&L: We have always desired the freedom to create on our own terms. It just felt right. Anytime we were presented with a different version of that, it felt wrong. Over the years we have learned to trust our instincts. Understanding what we make at Rodarte, and why, is very important to our design process and to running the company. We will always be open to working with other brands, but Rodarte is a creative expression for us and it feels important to keep the design ethos as a reflection of ourselves and vision.

JVB: What advice would you share with young designers just starting out on sticking to their guns?

K&L: The only thing that a designer has to offer in the world of fashion is their individual vision and voice. It is so important to stay distinct.

JVB: Film has been a constant source of inspiration for you guys. Is there a specific era of cinema that you find yourself drawn to?

K&L: We love all genres and eras of cinema. Films by Agnes Varda, Lina Wertmuller, Chantal Akerman, Julie Dash, Ida Lupino, Maya Deren, Claire Denis, Sofia Coppola, Jane Campion, and others.

JVB: Your unique aesthetic has set high expectations in the industry from a design standpoint. I look forward to you two every season. How do you keep the challenge on yourselves to outdo each collection?

K&L: We are our own critics and with each collection, we try to do better… to do more… and to keep learning.

JVB: What is inspiring you right now?

K&L: Elliott Hundley’s gallery show at Regen Projects, Clearing.

JVB: You recently teamed up with Universal Standard to launch a plus size capsule collection. How did that come about?

K&L: Universal Standard outreached to us about collaborating and we were so excited to work with their team. We are passionate about working with women that inspire us to push boundaries and we are excited about what a collaboration like this will contribute to the fashion industry.

JVB: Rodarte was the first fashion exhibition mounted by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. How did that feel?

K&L: It was an incredible experience and very powerful. The exhibition included over 90 designs and getting to see it as a body of work, rather than by collection, allowed us to see into our creative minds/process a little more than we have in the past. The museum is such a powerful institution, the entire process was an honor.

JVB: Who have been your favorite beauty muses over the years?

K&L: Diana Ross, Cher, Jane Birkin, Charlotte Rampling, Maggie Cheung

JVB: What do you want people to take away from your work?

K&L: We hope they are able to dream through our clothing and that they inspire.

JVB: Can you give us a little tease about future projects you have in the works?

K&L: We are not able to but we have some exciting things coming up!