Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy on Designing That Iconic Mushroom Dress

Welcome to our podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion-and-beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Kate and Laura Mulleavy know a thing or two about breaking the internet with a dress. 

The sisters and designers behind Rodarte made headlines with their lilac mushroom-print dress from their S/S 22 collection that Lorde wore virtually off the runway to an event in Los Angeles. 

After taking an almost two-year break from showing a collection in person, Rodarte debuted its S/S 22 collection in New York City in September of last year.

In the latest episode of Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr, listen to the Mulleavy sisters discuss what it was like to be back on the runway after an 18-month break, where their inspiration for the iconic mushroom dress came from, and so much more.

For some excerpts of their interview, scroll below.

Let’s start by talking about your S/S 22 show, which happened in New York this past September. What was it like to be back after the 18-month pandemic break?

Laura Mulleavy: I remember thinking when we first started talking, can we get to New York? Our previous show had been in February 2020, and then we came back to Los Angeles and hadn’t left the city since then.

Coming together, it felt really wonderful to be back with our team, to be with people that came from Europe, that came from Los Angeles. We all met up in New York and had a reunion. The community and being a part of a creative team felt so wonderful knowing that you have a pre-existing language together and that they’re part of the end point of a collection, where you kind of bring it to life and make it theatrical.

We really just wanted to go back to New York and take that feeling—how great it feels to work with a group of people—and just present that in a show. Hopefully, the feeling that comes out of it is that you feel enlivened about something you’re seeing because you know how good we felt making it.

Like everyone else in the world, I fell in love with the mushroom dress, the one that Lorde ended up wearing almost immediately off the runway. When you’re creating something like that, do you know this is going to be the sensation? Do you feel it?

LM: Sometimes you do. We did a heart dress in our F/W 20 collection. I had no idea it would become something that was one of our top sellers of all time that everyone would love. I loved it, but you never know. In this instance, with the mushroom, it seemed it was the focal point of the show. So in a sense, I hoped that people would respond to it as much as we did because it seemed so unique within fashion. 

You never know what your show is until that moment backstage. You see everyone lined up, and then you see the photos. We don’t have the view of the audience. I don’t think we’ll ever have an understanding of what watching a show is like, so you can only in your head pre-understand the way something will come across.

In this instance, I had hoped that people really responded to the mushrooms.

Kate Mulleavy: The moment that Laura pinned it, and then in the fitting the model walked, and we could see it balloon. A lot of people said, “Oh, you got so lucky with the wind.” I say, “Yes, we did.” The truth is that dress will balloon whoever puts it on when you walk—as long as your walk gets a little bit fast-paced—it’s going to do that big shape.

I knew in the moment where I saw the shape with the actual mushrooms drawn by our mom, it all came together. In my mind, I said, “Well, this is going to be a special dress.” There was something about the simplicity that the design could mirror the organism. I would say as a designer, that’s something that rarely happens, where I feel like there’s this really interesting, cohesive, creative connection that can happen between the silhouette, the design, the pattern, the inspiration, the print.

I felt in a way it all aligned, and I knew it was special. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring stylist and costume designer Zerina Akers.

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