Rodarte on Their Catherine Opie, Alec Soth Book Collaboration

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Photos: Catherine Opie; Alec Soth

A spread from Rodarte's book, featuring photographs by Catherine Opie and Alec Soth.

Rodarte's most recent masterpiece wasn't unveiled at Lincoln Center. Instead, the sisters Mulleavy took over the New York Public Library, as Fashion Week wrapped, for a discussion and showcase of their new photography book, Rodarte, Catherine Opie, Alec Soth. If perhaps you're expecting a red carpet greatest hits, think again.

The designers enlisted revered fine art photographers to document their designs alongside Golden State landscapes. Catherine Opie snapped the outfits, worn on friends and family, in two 12-hour days, while Alec Soth took photos of California, guided by the sisters' map of personal must-sees. The resulting tome is a look inside the creative process of one of the most innovative design duos.

"We haven't been working for 30 years so it's the kind of book that, for me, is more of an exploration of what I thought our work was about," Kate Mulleavy explains.

Fresh from their Spring 2012 RTW show, the Mulleavys schooled the audience on the varied sources of inspiration, including ornithology (nearly extinct condors served as past inspiration), astronomy, and Van Gogh as well as their interconnectedness.

Kate relates the thinking behind Rodarte's just-shown collection. "If I said to you, Van Gogh relates to Los Angeles, you'd say 'What are you talking about? Where did you get this?'"

How does a post-impressionist painter connect to the West Coast hub of entertainment?

So glad you asked! The sisters live down the street from a museum that houses a portrait Van Gogh did of his mother. Also nearby is a renowned observatory—"Einstein level," Kate explains—with a sunspot-recording telescope.

Rodarte transformed sunspots into the painter's famous sunflowers and added "Starry Nights" imagery to the clothes to demonstrate, as Kate termed it, the "connection of abstraction and space." We saw the dazzling results on the runway.

Naturally, the discussion stayed close to the clothes. Other than the Fanning sisters, who does Rodarte design for?

"People assume because we're women designers you design for yourself. That's probably the most asked question that we get," Kate reveals.

"It's really a personal and probably selfish way we do design," Laura admits. "Because it's about things we know, things we've experienced, maybe something we've seen, something we want to see, and then all of a sudden, it's completely about us, and it's nothing I would wear in my day-to-day life."

"The idea of designing for a certain type of person has never really been in our minds. It's more of the idea of a collection, the idea of trying to have a dialogue somehow," Kate adds. "When I hear a brand [say], 'We make this type of clothes for this type of woman,' I think, well, maybe we're supposed to figure out what ours would be?"

Rest assured ladies, you're definitely doing things right.

Rodarte, Catherine Opie, Alec Soth is available on for $50.40.

And be sure to check out the Spring 2012 RTW collection.