LOS ANGELES, United States — Rodarte, the Los Angeles-based label designed by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, is on the move.
Instead of showing its Autumn/Winter 2017 collection at New York Fashion Week this season, the designers are heading to Paris, where they will host an intimate presentation for select buyers and editors on a date to be announced in the coming weeks. From then on, the Mulleavys will show their main runway collections in January and July, aligning — like Vetements — with the haute couture schedule. They will also add a third collection to their yearly production schedule.
The third collection — which Laura Mulleavy says will likely be presented in New York, although when and how have yet to be decided — will showcase more accessible “lifestyle” items such as leather goods and trousers, which have often taken a backseat to the designers’ highly detailed, hand-worked gowns in their collections to date.
“We’re a small business, but we’re an independent business,” said Mulleavy, who also said the label, which operates with a small team, is profitable. Right now, the majority of the company’s revenue is derived from ready-to-wear, with a small slice coming from its “Radarte”-emblazoned t-shirt and sweatshirt line, as well as collaborations. (The brand has partnered with Target and H&M-owned & Other Stories.) “I know people love to talk about our t-shirts, but it’s a small portion of what we do,” she said. “Since the main revenue is the runway collection, it’s important to have that third presence.” Current stockists include Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom in the United States, Moda Operandi online and ATLF Paris abroad.
According to Mulleavy, the reasons for the schedule shift are manifold. For one, showing in January and July offers the designers additional time to produce the garments for retailers, and also to ensure items live on the sales floor for a longer stretch. “The selling period is the key issue,” she said. “At our company, our number-one goal is always to create the beautiful, detail-oriented clothing that people desire from our brand. We want to feed our product into the marketplace on an earlier delivery schedule.”
The selling period is the key issue... We want to feed our product into the marketplace on an earlier delivery schedule.
Moving the main collection shows abroad, she said, made the most sense as many top editors and buyers congregate in Paris during January and July. “We’re huge fans of the city and huge fans of what fashion means in Paris,” she said. “On top of that, the schedule does allow for us to have earlier deliveries.” Showing in Paris, during couture, may also prove a better fit with Rodarte’s handmade, artisanal sensibility. But the move also means the label will be compared to brands much bigger than them on one of the world’s grandest fashion stages.
The shift in strategy occurs as the sisters are set to release a film at the end of 2017. "Woodshock," which stars Kirsten Dunst, will be distributed by A24, the much-buzzed-about studio behind lauded independent films such as the Oscar-winning "The Room" and Oscar-nominated "Moonlight" and "20th Century Women". “Creatively, artistically, it really brought a lot out in us,” Mulleavy said of the film. “It only made me think about taking next steps [with Rodarte].”
To be sure, the size of Rodarte’s business is much smaller than its brand recognition might suggest, though Mulleavy declined to share financial details. At one point in the late 2000s, speculation swirled that luxury conglomerate LVMH was eyeing the brand for a potential acquisition, but those rumours soon faded.
Those “lifestyle” pieces, as Mulleavy likes to call them (the word “commercial,” she said, does not properly capture the designs) may help push the business forward. Whether that leads to strategic backing remains to be seen. “Kate and I don’t place limitations on ourselves,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s good for people to believe success is only growth and expansion if they don’t have a solid understanding of what they can offer. It’s something to find out first, because you just get lost. We try to do what is true to us.”