Last year design duo Laura and Kate Mulleavy from Pasadena, California celebrated the landmark ten-year anniversary of their fashion house, Rodarte. The sister act have perfected ready-to-wear, a T-shirt line, accessories, and manage global demand for a made-to-measure service. Today, the brand’s bespoke service launched in the United Arab Emirates. Partnering with Suite 1521, a US boutique, Rodarte is now taking appointments at the Fairmont Dubai, offering its Fall 2017 collection. Laura Mulleavy spoke to Vogue Arabia—jetlag aside—to discuss the threads of strong women, souk shopping, and to decode the Middle Eastern Rodarte woman.
It’s Laura Mulleavy’s first trip to the Middle East; she touched down in Dubai the other day. She is clearly thriving rather than merely surviving her jet-leg. “Dubai feels familiar,” says the Californian, “but there’s nothing quite like it.” Souk shopping is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Rodarte’s customer base is far reaching, with stockists dotted across the globe. The Middle Eastern marketplace is not new to the maison. Mulleavy describes how the Arab customer is synonymous in spirit with the Western customer, “The Rodarte woman is intelligent, bright, strong-willed, inspired by nature and art.” She pauses in thought. After all, the attributes of the client and the product are often inextricably linked. “All ages, all sizes,” continues Mulleavy, “and she has a spirit of individuality. There’s an intricate chicness to the Rodarte woman. She is interested in the integrity behind fashion.”
The designer has eleven years of success under her belt and multiple spins of the seasonal wheels to recap. Then there’s the experience that comes with the balancing act between buyers, customers, commerciality, the press, and the very close working relationship with her older sibling. So, is there anything new under the UAE sun? “I’m seeing a shared need for certain clothing all over the world, not just here,” adds Mulleavy. “The feminine edge is specific to here though.” She describes the seasonal color palette that her private clients are asking for, bouncing from a spectrum of outlandish golden shimmers to soft, delicate pastels. “I’m so attracted to shiny surfaces.” Luckily, the same goes for the global cult of Rodarte aficionados.
“I have a personal attachment to the launch of Vogue Arabia,” says the designer. “Any new voice, any strong voice needs to be celebrated… This part of the world should have a Vogue, and the rest of the world needs to refer to it too.” As the Fall 2017 collection is presented to private clients from the region, the designer remarks, “Our clothes are so specifically designed. They [the clients] realise how difficult it is to revision a change… People are very faithful to the real runway pieces.” Maybe a hemline might drop to the floor, or a sleeve added to a previously asymmetric style here in these appointments. But this is clearly the first of many trips to the region for the Mulleavys.
Lead image: Rodarte Spring 2017 at New York Fashion Week. Getty