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Quicktake: Rodarte at the Cooper-Hewitt

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In five years, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sister team behind Rodarte, have amassed an impressive list of fashion awards and have seen their creations embraced by celebrities from coast to coast. Now they have been honored with an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Second in the museum’s “Quicktake” installations, the Rodarte show will be on exhibit through March 14, 2010.

“The Mulleavy’s instinctive approach and lack of traditional fashion training give their collections a fresh point of view while always managing to be sophisticated and experimental; something completely unique within American fashion,” said Gregory Krum, director of retail at Cooper-Hewitt, who is curating the installation along with Susan Brown, assistant curator in the Textiles Department.

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The Mulleavys are known for their emotionally powerful collections, and the exhibit certainly highlights those talents. In two of the museum’s upstairs rooms, visitors are given a taste of what these designers can deliver. At the top of the stairs, the fashions displayed are a vision in white. One can readily see why these clothes are considered works of art. The fabrics and materials used are, in some cases, radically different yet come together in a surprising and aesthetically appealing way. These fashions are not for everyday and even those meant for evening would need to be worn by someone not only in good shape but also willing to show off that shape quite publicly.

In the second room, the clothes are in basic black with one notable exception that stands out like a rainbow amidst dark clouds. (This was our favorite). In this group, many of the fashions seem like something Morticia Addams would wear, dripping with black yarn and embellished with peek-a-boo leather. Again, not for the fashion shy.

Yet, keep in mind that this exhibit is just that, an artistic exhibit meant to show off the more daring work of these two talented women. (Although one wonders if they will soon be designing for Lady Gaga). Visit Rodarte’s fashions in any of the department stores and you will most likely find out why these two women are quickly becoming the darlings of the industry. Recession-era clothing doesn’t need to be boring. The Mulleavys are the best example of that truth.

Quicktake: Rodarte
The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
212-849-8400
www.cooperhewitt.org

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