The Queens of Spring

When it comes to outfitting for the flower season, no one does it better than Rodarte.

By Karen Fragala Smith

Fit. Price point. Marketability. Licensing. It’s a fashion designer’s magic formula for commercial viability. To be successful at the retail level, a design house needs flattering and wearable garments, reasonable production costs, on-trend seasonal offerings and prolific licensing that includes perfume, sunglasses, handbags and shoes. This is the formula that made Michael Kors a billion-dollar brand. And it worked for Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren before him. But for sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, founders of Rodarte, the most acclaimed brand in American fashion, commercial viability isn’t really a thing. Rodarte is all about creative expression. So it only makes sense that you’ll see more Rodarte gowns in their groundbreaking exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington than in the dress department at Nordstrom.

“We are honored to be the first designers to have a fashion exhibition organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts,” said Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who consider themselves artists who use clothing as a medium rather than utilitarians in service of the apparel industry. And while their dresses have appeared in dozens of museums around the world during the company’s 12 years in existence, the NMWA show is the most extensive Rodarte collection ever assembled, with nearly 100 runway looks precisely replicated from head to toe…

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Rodarte, Spring/Summer 2018 backstage.

Rodarte, Fall/Winter 2008 backstage.

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