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Rodarte fashion designers no-shows at Michelle Obama's White House luncheon

Sisters and fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who created the label Rodarte, in 2006. (Autumn de Wilde)

Michelle Obama, wearing a Rodarte dress, and Prince Albert at an International Olympic Committee reception in Copenhagen last year. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

You're a hot fashion duo invited to the White House for lunch with Michelle Obama. Do you:
(a) Thank the first lady for showcasing American designers to the world?
(b) Arrive wearing a wacky non-Washington ensemble?
(c) Blow off the lunch and stand up Obama?

If you answered (c), you know something about Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sister act behind L.A. fashion label Rodarte.

The Mulleavy team was expected at Wednesday's White House luncheon for the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. The awards are a big deal because fashion is treated with the same respect as more serious disciplines such as architecture and interior design. The winners were announced in advance: Rodarte took the 2010 top honors for fashion.

The label has had a meteoric rise: The sisters, who have no formal training, took their first tiny collection to New York just five years ago. Their expensive, arty clothes were an instant hit with fashion insiders; two years ago they were honored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as best up-and-comers; last year they won the CFDA's top prize for women's wear -- fashion's equivalent of an Oscar, reports our colleague Robin Givhan.

They also nabbed deals with the Gap and Target and a fan in Obama, who has worn two of their dresses: a stunning pumpkin cocktail dress in Copenhagen, a taupe day dress while meeting with Jordan's Queen Rania.

The sisters -- known as shy and eccentric -- were confirmed for Wednesday's luncheon, then backed out at the last minute with a vague explanation about change of plans and a "family obligation to attend to in L.A."

Obama -- who sat next to "Project Runway's" Tim Gunn at the East Room lunch -- did not mention Rodarte during her speech.

"It is a pleasure to be here today as we honor some of our country's most talented, most visionary, most public-minded designers -- folks whose work has literally changed the way we look at the world and how we live our daily lives," she told the crowd. "Our honorees today come from a wide variety of disciplines and fields, from architecture and landscape, to product design, interior design and much more."

The first lady's outfit? A hot-pink two-piece by Isabel Toledo. 'Nuf said.

By The Reliable Source  |  July 26, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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People talk about sisters Rodarte snubbing Michelle Obama's lunch invite, or insulting the women of Juarez, victims of violence and abuse.... but what people should be talking about is how come such mainly bullshit design gets to be displayed at Barney's or to receive so much PR?

Posted by: GoldaMeir | July 26, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Those two little bi_tches need to be taught a lesson. Mrs. Obama should donate her dresses very publicly to Goodwill. Invite all the press, and tell them exactly why these two republipigs need to have they rising star shot down. Arrogant little twits.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | July 26, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

People need to get a grip.... Their are people on the coast that have lost all of their income from the oil spill, people that are hungry, without jobs... and we are poo pooing two sisters that turned down a lunch with Mrs. Obama... big deal! Mrs Obama paid an outragous amount of money for that dress. They would rather be with family that a bunch of fashion designers. I would rather go to the city dump and drop off my trash, than attend a luncheon with those people....

Posted by: cantonellen | July 26, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

The "broken window" theory states: once a window is broken in a building, the building is rife for graffiti and abuse.

Then there are plain, old-fashioned manners.

Both good reasons to hold these girls (and yes, I mean adult girls) accountable for their rude behavior.

Posted by: cfow1 | July 26, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Rude - when you RSVP for an honor, for you, show up. I will be sure to never buy any of their clothes.

Posted by: rlj1 | July 26, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

In this - the greatest economic disaster in our nation's history - our "first lady" tries to teach people how to grow gardens. Nationwide hunger grows every day and she knows that it is coming. Her credo: While I much on caviar, tell people that they are too fat - that way, their hunger will be tied to my mission of telling them to lower their BMI.

She will be remembered as a self-proclaimed "queen of fashion" while Americans floundered in a sea of unemployment, outsourcing, foreclosure, homelessness, and hopelessness. Thanks for your vision, Michelle; we can always count on you to party and exploit your short tenure in the White House.

Posted by: joesmithdefend | July 26, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The two ladies probably realized how much more money they will paying as a small business under Obamacare and to-be-repealed tax cuts, and decided that their time was better spent re-registering as Republicans.

Reap as you sow, Obama.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 26, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

When the wrong toes get stepped on, nobody wins...

Posted by: AScottWalton | July 26, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The main point (if there really is any) is it is considered bad manners to RSVP to an event and then just not show up, be it the White House or otherwise. Who cares, I am sure Michelle and the other designers there did not whether the came or not but for manners and social graces they should and could have declined earlier so that someone else who wanted to attend could have been invited. Chances are they can do without Michelle Obama and I am betting she certainly can do with out them!

Posted by: sbeck1 | July 27, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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