“There’s probably not one designer in the world who if they came to you and said we want you to design Chanel, well, you’re going to want to try that,” Kate Mulleavy said during a new episode of the Netflix podcast “Present Company,” with former Vanity Fair editor Krista Smith. “So I think that there are certain houses and mythologies that would be so intriguing and definitely ones that you would maybe jump at the chance for.”
But there is a sense of obligation among the sisters to their long-independent brand, not only the sense of freedom and control they have over their designs and output, but because it’s one of the relatively few women-operated and controlled names in fashion.
“It’s very difficult as women in this field, there aren’t very many women designers or people that are heads of their own companies, and you do feel that over the years,” Laura Mulleavey said. “I feel like we get to talk about it more now and it’s very nice. But at the beginning you felt a little bit as though [designing for a large house] wasn’t an option. Now I feel like it’s happening more and people are aware of the discrepancy.”
What that means for the sisters is undecided, as they both explained the fulfillment they experience knowing that they’ve designed and created each piece in 30-odd collections over the last 15 years. “The hard part is knowing that you will be doing work for someone else,” as Laura Mulleavy put it.
Things aren’t always great as an independent brand. Even with a stable of A-list actors such as Brie Larson, Kirsten Dunst and Tracee Ellis Ross, among many others, who frequently wear Rodarte for public appearances and red carpet events, the designers explained the pain that can come with working on a custom dress for weeks that ends up not walking out on an actor for a sea of photographers. While Rodarte opted out of vying for this year’s Oscars, given its overlap with the designers’ “Dracula”-inspired showing at New York Fashion Week, they’ve had plenty of sad moments in previous award seasons.
“You never tell anyone you’ve made anything because it never works out once you say it out loud,” Laura Mulleavy said. “It’s like a secret between yourselves to get it to that stage and then you just pray for the best. For premieres, for the Golden Globes, for the Oscars [custom designing and not being worn] has definitely happened. It’s sometimes pretty heartbreaking because you’re just like, it’s so much work.”
But for their recent fashion show, the sisters had some inspiration in the popular Netflix docu-series “Cheer,” which followed a competitive cheer squad in the run up to a major competition and became something of a sensation.
“We’re better leaders because we watched that show,” Kate Mulleavy said. “I’m watching coach Monica thinking, ‘She’s right, I need a plan A, B, C and D for everything that could go wrong with this [fall fashion] show.’”
It ended up that there actually was cause for a plan D this time around as one dress in particular was an issue.
“This was the first time a dress hit plan D for us,” Laura Mulleavy said. “That hasn’t happened since maybe the season I brought the whole collection with me the day before the show and we had to do the fittings in one day.”
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