Hint seeks out rising stars of design
July '07

KM: Not quite like that. But people have said it's not ready-to-wear, which I guess is true.

You've gotten off easy if that's the worst someone has said.

KM: We try to stay oblivious, too. Anytime you put anything out there, people will have opinions. One time a buyer told me to put a nude lining in one of our dresses and it sent me into a rage. He said it had to have a nude chiffon lining and made a big deal about it. We were, like, eeew, that's so creepy ice skater. Later I was telling a friend about it. Turns out she had recently bought a dress that had to be fitted. When she went to pick it up, it suddenly had a nude lining. It was him! Apparently he does that all the time.

He's like the nude chiffon fairy.

KM: Maybe if we actually do need to do that, we can call him.

Let's talk about the fall collection. The body armor thing blew me away.

KM: The idea of it was, when you look at a Velázquez painting, of course you see the courtly figures, but then you see figures that are armored. The collection is based on that kind of Renaissance armor look.

LM: Specifically, armored sleeves. We had a black coat that looked like it was patent leather, but it was laminated wool, so those sleeves were so heavy. But that was the only heavy piece. The rest of the collection was georgette, taffeta and brocade. We did a coat with amazing paisley brocade from the '20s. It was rare fabric someone had given us.

Rare is a good word to describe Rodarte.

LM: But in a weird way, we weren't entirely aware of the rare thing until this year at the CFDA awards. They showed a video montage for each designer, and you could really see the grand tradition with, like, Oscar de la Renta or Marc Jacobs. And then there was our video.

Is the grand tradition something you want to fit into?

KM: We love dressmaking history. We recently went through the FIT closets with Valerie Steele and we saw all these iconic Charles James dresses that I've seen in a million books. We could go underneath them and see the interiors and all the amazing colors, like insane yellow, fuchsia and snow-white ivory. They're works of art, like floating ghosts. I also think Coco Chanel was a genius, She defines modern design and marketing. She might not have really invented the little black dress, but she convinced the world she did. She's unparalleled.

LM: We'd love to be like the Chanel brand, the way it's instantly recognizable. Or like Galliano or McQueen. They have such clear voices. We want people to hold up a dress and say this has to be Rodarte.

When did things start coming together?

LM: When we came to New York for the first time. We didn't know anyone, but we wanted to show our dresses to someone. The first meeting we had was at WWD. There were an array of editors. Kate and I were terrified. Three days later we were on the cover, just before Fashion Week. Then we got a call from a friend saying Ana Wintour wanted to meet us.

How did that go?

LM: She was really generous and kind. She said she knew what we were doing was really personal and we should keep it that way.

What are some other brushes with fashion fame?

KM: We met Karl Lagerfeld earlier this year on our first trip to Paris for Colette's 10th anniversary. We were at the store when he came in with Lady Amanda Harlech and bought one of our dresses for her. It was an out-of-body experience for us.

LM: It didn't feel real until six months later.

Have you ever thought about working in film?

KM: I would love that.

Any film in particular?

KM: It would need to be a film with costumes that can translate to real life, like an Yves Saint Laurent and Pink Panther kind of thing, or Armani and The Untouchables.

What about Marie Antoinette?

KM: Ooh, Versailles, but we'd do it with Chanel couture.

Have you been invited to show at couture week in Paris?

KM: No, but that's a dream of ours. We probably already spend as much time on our collections as the couturiers. One time, just a crazy bow took so long to make that by the time it was on the rack, Laura vowed never to do another one.

Do you have time for anything else?

KM: Of course. We love pop culture as much as anyone. Sometimes we watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer as we drape.

I can see that.

KM: To me, watching Buffy is like watching a [Jean-Luc] Godard film. They're kind of the same in a weird way. They're both about teen angst.

Hmmm, food for thought. Anything else you want Hintsters to know?

KM: That we're not about pairing jeans with a jacket. We think about everything in a 360-degree way, not just the front and back. It's very thought-out and controlled.

Some might say tortured?

KM: [Laughs.] But shortcuts never look as good. Look at old Chanel and Vionnet. They stand the test of time.

Maybe your dresses should come with an instruction manual so the person buying it can read about the concept and all the various parts that went into its making.

KM: Yeah, that would be rad. Like, this is what we were thinking, this is how you should stand. But wait, that's even more work!

Rodarte is available at Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Colette in Paris and Browns in London.

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