Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ethereal Nature


Rodarte (American, founded 2005). Evening Dress, fall/winter 2006–7. Pale yellow silk chiffon and white silk satin with accordion pleating and self-fabric applied panels and rosettes. Gift of Christine Suppes, 2007 (2007.381).

Rodarte is the label of the Mulleavy sisters, Kate and Laura. In the two years since establishing their design house, the sisters have developed a devout following among fashion connoisseurs. Their dresses are characterized by an obsessional attention to detail. In this gown, fragile silk chiffon and lightweight silk satin have been pinked into fluttering ruffles, pleated into fluidly undulating panels, and torqued into their signature flower motifs. While the exquisite finishes of their designs are appreciated by critics and clients alike, it is their preference for an eased fit that keeps their work from appearing uptight and overly considered. At Rodarte, stiffer fabrics in brocades and metallics are invested with movement and swing, and the house’s favored organzas and chiffons are painstakingly worked to emphasize their fluttering ethereality. A Rodarte gown, therefore, is not only beautiful in the long view of the red carpet but also in circumstances of greater intimacy. The seduction of their craft is in the lightness of their touch.

Our work is often a study of balance, in which volume, construction, and color have a complex interplay that we carefully control. With this gown, in particular, we wanted to find a way of controlling pleats, and used pleating as a means of creating tonal texture. In using the pinked edges and the hand-cut waves, surrounded by a column of pleats, we were able to literally create depth in this piece while also maintaining both its delicacy and a light-as-air appearance and touch. Here, we also attempted to simulate the texture of tree bark, but in a soft and ethereal manner. Having grown up in northern California, completely surrounded by redwoods, tide pools, mustard fields, and apple orchards, we frequently translate vivid natural landscapes into our designs.

—Laura and Kate Mulleavy

Comments (15)

  1. JS Says:

    Bravo! The Mulleavy sisters are keeping alive the time-honored craftsmanship and techniques of haute couture. Thank goodness some designers still believe in the art of fashion and workmanship and not about licensing out their names to make money. I hope they continue to stay true to their vision and never sell out to the masses.

  2. andy Says:

    I think they are to young to be in the MET!

  3. Miranda Noland Says:

    I want to get married in this dress.

  4. phume Says:

    It’s definitely great to see recognization for the innovation of the talented sisters. This pieces is etheral and construction wise portrays an intelligent and conceptual design. I won’t be suprise if they stop showing at New York Fashion Week and go to France where they will really make a statement.

  5. Justin Says:

    Rodarte has quickly become one of the collections I tune into each season. Their technique is beyond impressive, especially considering that neither Kate nor Laura went to school for fashion design.

    They’re by far one of the few captivating shows during NY fashion week, which could either be a reflection of how homogenized American fashion has become, or a testament to the sisters’ talent.

    This dress was absolutely beautiful in person, the photos don’t do justice to the softness of that particular shade of yellow. And the pinked edges that have quickly become a signature flourish of Rodarte add a really classic dressmakers touch to such a quirky design.

  6. marina urbach Says:

    It is tempting to compare this piece of the Mulleavy sisters to
    the ‘Paper Doll’ of Tao Kurihara, or Alexander McQueen’s
    ‘Oyster Dress’.
    ‘Our work is often a study of balance, in which volume, construction, and color have a complex interplay that we carefully control.’
    Control is a key concept for the work of the Mulleavy sisters:
    delicate constructed balance, subtle tonal texture, fluid ethereality,
    a construction of great beauty, but a beauty that lacks the reflective dimension of the ’shipwreck’ drama of
    McQueen, or the irony of Kurihara’s juxtaposition.

  7. Aunt Chris Says:

    I just wanted to reach out and touch this. How good it must feel to wear — the fabric floating off the body, the ruffles and flower details. Ultimately feminine yet also ultimately natural like wearing a leaf or a flower.

    Idea — what if you had a sample of the fabric we could touch outside the glass enclosure. I love the feel of fabric and I miss being able to do that with these clothes.

  8. Gabby Says:

    it looks just like a water fall! doesn’t anyone agree with me?

  9. Laurie Aron Says:

    I was going to say that with all that intensive dressmaker construction and attention to detail, this dress seems to bloom so naturally, yet Marina, what an astute remark…”"a construction of great beauty, but a beauty that lacks the reflective dimension of the ’shipwreck’ drama of McQueen, or the irony of the Kurihara’s juxtaposition.”

    That is absolutely true of this dress, which though haute couture at its technical heart, it is also basically conservative in form. I think the current Rodarte collection pushes the envelope much more.

  10. Anita Says:

    I totally agree with you Marina and Laurie, Kate and Laura are very talented.

    But unlike Andy, I don’t think they are to young to be in the MET.

  11. Landon Jones Says:

    Loved this dress again at the Met via the blog.mode exhibit! Landon - you sure maximize your membership association witht the museum.



  12. Pet Says:

    My wife would love to be in this!

  13. Lily Says:

    Exquisite, but the zipper should have been more skillfully hidden; it mars the pleating and the stitching seems clumsy. I love the knotting of the “roses” on the front of dress.

  14. marina urbach Says:

    ‘ I love the knotting of the “roses” on the front of dress.’

    Perhaps a bit kitsch?

  15. Lewis Says:

    Wow, I love the design, I think the chiffon and the soft color saves the design because it’s on the edge between kitch or class. Just my opinion… (but I still like it)

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