Material Girls: Rodarte


In five short years, the sisters Mulleavy have become the de facto representatives of American fashion, despite their relative reticence. Of course, their rise has been accompanied with criticism, particularly the claim that the designers focus on fabric at the expense of volume and silhouette. With their new line for fabrics for Knoll, the Mulleavys are giving the naysayers a bit more to think about. “The draping, the layering, the dramatic presentations, and the material… Even in the girls’ 2009 Target collection, the mixture of texture, despite being mass-produced, instead of using Rodarte’s traditional bespoken procedure, shone through,” explains Dorothy Cosonas, creative director of both Knoll Textiles and the higher end Knoll Luxe.

Knoll doesn’t make fabric in the large spool-and-showroom way, although they do cater to businesses and hospitality. There is something more progressive about the company, which launched its first Luxe collection in 2008, designed by Cosonas herself, who has a background in fine arts and textile design. The next collection was a lush, colorful selection done by the boys of Proenza Schouler. For year three, Cosonas was dead-set on Rodarte: “The girls were truly my only choice. They are more artists than fashion designers,” she explains. “Laura and Kate have a true understanding of materials, color combination, craft and technique.” Working within many disciplines, as with architects Eero Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe, isn’t new for Knoll, but turning to those who are most intimately acquainted with luxury fabrics—fashion designers—was a turning point.



For their Knoll Luxe collection, Cosonas wanted Rodarte to be as faithful to their brand as possible. “I wanted signature looks. If someone was a fan of Rodarte, they will understand clearly that this material is connected to them.” Recalling the line’s now-iconic spider webs from the Fall 2008 collection, the Parker drapery is made of textured threads suspended between layers of gauze, while the Auden borrows liberally from the coloring of Summer 2009. The Whitman upholstery, inspired by the sumptuous knits of last fall, looks heavy and hand-woven. (The names of the textiles are a tribute to Laura’s background in literature.) “Basically,” says Cosonas, who flew between coasts to work on the project with the ladies, “It’s all an interpretation of ideas. We had to create a fabric that spoke the language of Rodarte…But since its one so concerned with textiles, it was a quick study for all involved.” And while purchasing yardage of Rodarte-made fabric isn’t quite the same as wearing a design by the duo, critics can see how different it really is.