The Influence of California Mythology on Rodarte

It makes complete sense that Laura and Kate Mulleavy grew up in California. Rodarte is, after all, the reigning fashion king/queen of Hollywood romance, dreamy weather, and redwood mythology. Now, the label is returning to the Golden State to present their AW19 collection in Pasadena.


“California is one of our most important influences and having our first show in Los Angeles is a dream we’ve long wished to make reality,” the Mulleaveys wrote to Vogue. It’s difficult to extract California from most any of Rodarte’s collections, but here are a few main times the state influenced their body of work.


2005: Their First-Ever Collection Was Made in PasadenaThe sisters’ first collection, which landed them the cover of Women’s Wear Daily, was created in 2005 at their parents’ Pasadena home. Reportedly, their mom Victoria still helps do some of the beadwork.


In an interview with C Magazine, Laura remembered sketching the designs for their first 10 pieces at the Norton Simon Garden Cafe.  “We would wander in and see the Van Gogh and Degas paintings and then return outside to the water lily ponds,” she said.


2013: The Santa Cruz BoardwalkTheir Fall 2013 collection took the sisters back home to Santa Cruz, where they grew up outside of. The runway for that collection was in the shape of the boardwalk’s famous Giant Dipper roller coaster. There were tie-dye gowns, silk prints, and studded biker jackets.  “We always knew we’d do a collection about where we grew up,” Kate said at the time to Vogue.


2016: The Northern California Flower Child Dress—Laura and Kate chose Rodarte’s Fall 2016 collection as one of their favorites, particularly this flower child dress, an Art Nouveau-inspired piece with white lace and intricate floral beadwork. The dress, they told Vogue, was put in their “Northern California” room at the label’s retrospective at the National Museum for Women in the Arts. (Rodarte was the museum’s first-ever exhibition dedicated to fashion designers!)


2017: Hallucinations and Redwoods in WoodshockConsidering that most every Rodarte collection is cinematically inspired, it wasn’t a surprise that the sisters decided to make a film of their own. Woodshock, their debut feature starring Kirsten Dunst, explored the life of a woman who works at a weed dispensary in Humboldt County and is coping with the recent loss of her mom.


In an excellent California Sunday interview about the film, Laura and Kate said they wanted to portray what it’s like to stand amid ancient redwoods. They talked about having a romantic connection to the area’s landscape, having grown up looking at photos of their young parents in college at Humboldt State. The intro of Woodshock was Dunst’s authentic reaction to being blindfolded and led into a grove, and seeing the “really big” redwood trees for the first time.


2018: The empty California desert town from 3 WomenRobert Altman’s phantasmagoric 1977 film 3 Women, a film about three women whose identifies morph into each other, takes place in a surreal California desert town. Just as Roger Ebert described 3 Women as a “film imagined in a dream,” so could be said of pretty much any Rodarte collection.


Their Spring 2018 collection was inspired by Altman’s film, particularly the character of Pinky Rose played by Shelley Duvall. There was lots of baby’s breath reimagined in a “fashion context” and many pieces “pink and delicate and darling.”


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