The front row of Rodarte’s February fall 2008 New York runway show,was a watering hole for fashions elite. The industry’s most disconcerting arbiters of style, Anna Wintour and Carine Rotfield, sat at the foot of the stage, poised and eager.
All the varied species of fashions elite (a mix only known to top-tier time honored designers such as Karl Lagerfield, John Galliano, Giorgio Armani and Valentino) had abandoned their activities and egos to watch a less than fifteen minute show by two sisters from Pasadena. The Mulleavy sisters have managed–without inherited family background, powerful contacts or a strong financial backing–to capture the heartsand bank accounts of fashion’s most captious audience.
At Berkley Kate studied art history and Laura English literature. Instead of staying on in San Francisco or moving to a metropolitan fashion city, they choose to move back into their grandmothers small Pasadena guest house. Living far outside the physical boundaries of the fashion world, Kate and Laura fused their forces in the art of color, texture and feeling into one medium which both had no experience–fashion. Within a couple weeks, a couture collection of laborious layers of highly detailed dress art caught the disconcerting eye of Cameran Silver, the style maven and owner of the West Hollywood vintage emporium to fashion’s elite–Decades.
When Kate and Laura arrived at the Women’s Wear Daily offices in New York City at the cusp of fashion week in 2006, they were absolutely lost in NYC’s vast fashion maze. "We were clueless when we went in there, said Kate, someone interviewed us forever. They took our picture. Two days later we were on the cover." Within a matter of weeks WWD, Vogue, W, Harpers, Elle, the New York Times, and the Washington Post had done pieces on the awing skills of the frumpy fashion underdogs from Pasadena who managed to produce a couture-like like akin to the likes of Lagerfield and Galliano.
All of a sudden Rodarte was at the end of every tongue of not only the employees of Four Times Square, but the bevy of buyers clamoring the tents of Bryant Park. Within a few weeks Kate and Laura had gone from unknowns to fashion’s newest darlings. Barney’s and Saks quickly picked up the line to sell alongside other high fashion (and high priced) lines such as Balenciaga and Chanel.
Rodarte has captured–and kept the high fashion critics and market without selling itself out to the highest bidder (mass retailers and companies) and public relation’s most frugal communicators– celebrities. Kate and Laura have been choosy on whom they agree to lend their clothes to. It is a group of a few respected beauties such as Cate Blanchett, Zooey Deschanel, Keira Knightly, and most recently Natalie Portman (who wore a gauzy Spring 2008 Rodarte at The Other Boleyn Girl premiere at the Berlin Film Festival) whom have draped Rodarte over their fair bodies.
A fashionista’s Cinderalla story whose honeymoon praise period continues with every passing season, the valley vanguards continue to dazzle the fashion world while keeping to their LA based low maintenance and out of the spotlight lifestyle they always lived. Though they never wear there masterful works, Kate says that "In some ways I do feel like we design these dresses for ourselves, because they come from our imagination," Kate says. "And we always kinda live in our imagination."