In the metaverse-hopping genre mashup Everything Everywhere All at Once—nowadays known as the movie that swept the 2023 Oscars, best picture included—an overwhelmed laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) finds herself pressed into duty during an elevator ride to an IRS appointment. The mission, she learns, is to save the world, and it will involve family and fantasy, the mundane and the piercingly beautiful, all while she draws on skill sets she didn’t even realize were at her fingertips.
For Shirley Kurata, the film’s Oscar-nominated costume designer and an insider-favorite stylist working across fashion and music, the stakes were not exactly as high in 2006, when she got a last-minute entreaty to hop a plane and help an upstart fashion label with its very first runway show. But without that leap of faith, Rodarte as we know it—a dreamscape enterprise, ever-transporting 17 years on—simply wouldn’t be the same.
“Honestly, it’s really hard for me to think about a time where she hasn’t been a creative collaborator, a best friend, an artistic partner,” says Rodarte cofounder Kate Mulleavy, describing Kurata’s presence as “an extension of sisterhood.” (It was the filmmaker and photographer Autumn de Wilde who played matchmaker, roping in Kurata for that first show; the stylist has worked on their runways and lookbooks, alongside Ashley Furnival, ever since.) Kate is speaking over Zoom from label’s nondescript studio in downtown Los Angeles. Rodarte’s other half, Laura Mulleavy (older by a year), is calling from the car. Kurata, in her trademark owlish glasses, has joined from her home in the Los Feliz–Franklin Hills area. On the wall behind her, a looping print in an orange-to-brown gradient nods to her ’60s fascination. She’s wearing a vintage dolman-sleeve shirt with a repeating grid of Mickey Mouse faces—fitting for a trio of Southern California natives, whose sense of place often weaves into their work. (Rodarte’s fall 2019 show took place amid the rare plants at the Huntington Library, in their hometown of Pasadena, while the costume designer hit up LA’s Chinatown to source seniors-appropriate clothes for EEAAO.) “It’s reversible, so the other side is one big Mickey Mouse,” Kurata explains. But during an awards season in thrall to The Daniels’ take on alter-egos, multiple Mickeys is the way to go.
We’re speaking days before the Oscars, when Kurata will take the carpet in a diaphanous, beaded custom Rodarte look—the rare occasion when a behind-the-scenes talent gets a moment in the spotlight. “It feels like we’re celebrating costume design when we get to do this,” Laura says. (The sisters’ reverence for the field is earned: They created several darkly exquisite looks for Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan.) “The film is just incredible world-building,” Kate adds, “and Shirley was an amazing part of that.”