Since they first appeared on the fashion scene in 2005, the Mulleavy sisters have made their love of film and cinematography clearly shine through many of Rodarte’s breathtaking collections. Tending to steer clear of the archetypal classic films that designers continue to return to, the designers have drawn from various genres of film, including Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Baz Luhrman’s Australia and the work of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.
Rodarte’s Fall 2011 collection clearly cited one of the most influential films of the 20th Century, Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven”. Malick distinctly wanted the placid images of nature to drive the emotion behind the narrative; much like the Mulleavy sisters do through the collection’s visual aesthetic: the texture, color and shape of the designs enable the audience to create their own visual story. On the whole, the collection focuses on simplicity, with a muted colour palette and geometric patterns complimenting the silk chiffon gowns and clean lines. The use of brown, cream, grey and blue form a direct link to the natural landscape of the American Plains within ” Days of Heaven” (Style.com, 2011: Online), the collection could almost be a set of costumes for the film. A small part of the collection, however, references The Wizard of Oz, with jackets, skirts and shoes featuring crimson sequins, the dramatic change in design suggesting a twist in the narrative behind the collection.
Having admitted to spending an entire year watching horror films in search of design inspiration, the Mulleavys’ fascination with the genre has filtered through a number of their collections. The designers’ evident understanding of the dark undercurrents of beauty was acknowledged in their Spring and Fall 2008 collections, predominantly drawing on Kabuki theatre and the work of various Japanese directors. Fall 2008 directly references Ji-Woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters; with black and white “slasher” dresses featuring splatters of red, making a distinct comparison to the film’s cover image. By visually tapping into certain elements of Japanese horror through the use of texture and colour, the story behind the collection becomes associated with similar themes. For example the Fall 2008 designs hint towards aspects of eroticism and precognition, both of which predominantly feature within the films that inspired the collection. Aside from Japanese horror, the sisters have also cited James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands within their collections.
Aside from film being a source of inspiration for fashion collections; in recent years fashion has become a medium for film itself. With the internet being easily accessible, fashion within film can receive widespread media attention through blogs and social media websites; its viral potential is a cost-effective way of connecting with the brand’s target market. This is demonstrative of Rodarte’s Spring 2011 short film ‘The Curve of Forgotten Things’, starring Elle Fanning. Creating the atmosphere of 1970s Northern California, the use of celebrity also enables the brand to communicate with those who the brand is not targeting, thereby contributing to the public’s familiarity with the brand (Doran, 2012). Additionally, in 2011, the design duo were provided with the opportunity to design a number of costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s horror-tinged thriller Black Swan. This project enabled them to translate the dark, gothic elements of their own collections into a series of fairytale, ballet-inspired outfits (The Telegraph, 2010: Online). The box office success of Black Swan increased Rodarte’s global recognition, signifying the importance of film as a key promotional tool in modern society.