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How L.A.'s mysterious side inspires Rodarte's subversive couture

April 15, 2011 |  6:13 pm


From shredded dresses to the costumes they created for "Black Swan," Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy specialize in couture that's more than just edgy. The Mulleavys have made a practice capturing anxiety in dress form, which explains their inspiration: Tippi Hedren after she's been attacked in "The Birds." (For reference: They proudly own this Barbie doll.)

"We did a collection off the idea of a prairie landscape, and we built dresses like wheat fields at different points of the day, like a study of almost serene calmness, but the weird anxiety is knowing that at any moment that could shift, you could have something like a tornado," Kate told Patt Morrison in an interview that also covers the sisters' current exhibit at MOCA Pacific Design Center and why they don't plan to leave Los Angeles for New York.

Do people try to persuade you to leave L.A. permanently for New York?

Kate: I feel very attracted to [New York] as a designer, but I love being here. This is our creative space. California and Los Angeles are so interrelated to our creative process. Some people might not need to be close to the things that inspire them, but it's important to us.

Laura: We're also very free [in thinking]. I think it has something to do with living in L.A. I tell people who come here, "I want you to drive out to Joshua Tree or even Death Valley, because you'll experience this weird freedom of living here, that you are in this alien, bizarre, prehistoric landscape that feels like the edge of the universe."

Continue reading the interview here and click to see more photos after the jump.

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Portrait: Rodarte designers Kate (in blue) and Laura Mulleavy hold a fabric they designed. They developed the blue-and-white silk organza print based on antique ming vases for spring 2011. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha /Los Angeles Times

Rodarte at MOCA

Rodarte_MOCA-Red Collection

Rodarte_MOCA-White Collection

Top: Fashion designers Laura Mulleavy, left, and her sister Kate pose with show designer Alexandre de Betak near the "White Swan" tutus they designed for the Oscar-nominated film "Black Swan," during a preview of the sisters' art exhibition "Rodarte: States of Matter" at MOCA Pacific Design Center. Middle: "Red Collection." Bottom: "White Collection." Credit: Chris Pizzello / AP Photo / Feb. 23, 2011

Rodarte_Wheat Field

Photos: Looks from the Rodarte fall-winter 2011 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times / February 15, 2011
Rodarte_Black Swan_ Tutu Rodarte_Black Swan_Demon Costume

Image: Artist sketches by Kate and Laura Mulleavy for "Black Swan" costumes. Credit: Associated Press / Dec. 2, 2010

Natalie Portman in Rodarte

Photo: Actress Natalie Portman, who attended the "Birdwatchers -- La Terra Degli Uomini Rossi" film premiere at the 65th Venice Film Festival dressed in Rodarte, suggested that the Mulleavys design some of the costumes for "Black Swan." Credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images / Sept. 1, 2008


Photo: Rodarte's red and white gown was inspired by horror films. Credit: Rodarte / Feb. 5, 2008

Rodarte_Knit Dress

Photo: A spidery knit dress from Rodarte's Fall/winter 2008 collection. Credit: Kirk McKoy  / Los Angeles Times / Feb. 5, 2008 

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