Friday, December 4, 2009

Rodarte & Robert Smithson

by Elissandra Chin

Rodarte is a young brand that has made a big impact in a very short time. It is one of the most artistically inspired labels in the fashion world today. Kate and Laura Mulleavy are the designers/creators of Rodarte and though neither of the sisters have any formal training as fashion designers, (Laura was an English major and Kate was an Art History major at the University of Berkeley in California) they have received critical acclaim and acknowledgements for their work. From winning awards such as the prestigious CFDA Swarovski Crystal award for women’s wear emerging talent (2008) and the CFDA women’s wear designers of the year (2009), to having their work featured on the cover of WWD and Vogue. The brand has grown and conquered tremendously since its launch in only 2005. They were even recognized by the art world, when their work was featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt two of New York’s most esteemed art museums. So naturally, art would be a regular inspiration in many of their collections. While there are a variety of different influences in their Spring 2009 collection, from Greek Goddesses to Donnie Darko and even Star Wars, there is one inspiration that is particularly represented in their collection and that is the contemporary artist Robert Smithson. The way that the designers incorporate Smithson’s art and philosophy into their work is inspiring in itself.

Top Rodarte, S 2009 inspired by Smithson's Spiral Jetty, 1970

Robert Smithson’s vision is one that will forever have a place in the art world. One cannot appreciate the transformation of contemporary art without appreciating Smithson’s idea of looking beyond the gallery. The idea of working with the natural environment is one that is particularly relevant to the organic and green movement happening in the present day. There are many current artists that are attempting to express the same notion of working with the environment and not against it. At the same time (especially with the theory of the year 2012) many are questioning human impact upon the earth in which we live, common themes such as global warming and the apocalypse cause people to evaluate more then ever the future and the past impressions that we may leave behind (fossils). This could possibly be another factor in Rodarte’s choice of analyzing Smithson. They often take into consideration the current connection with the ideas that they choose to work with. The Mulleavy sisters build their inspirations into an overall fantasy, and do not usually let restrictions of mass production or customer appeal hinder them; it is just not the type of fashion label that they represent. This position is the ultimate dream for many aspiring designers. Rodarte continues to impress season after season by expanding their interests and innovative ways of incorporating them. There is always more that meets the eye to a Rodarte piece and in this way they help the totality of expression and originality available on the fashion market.

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