Unlikely Starbucks-Rodarte duo team for holiday


NEW YORK -- Not expecting the indie fashion darlings of Rodarte and the in-every-neighborhood coffee retailer Starbucks to be in the same sentence, let alone the same stores?

They will be, come Nov. 13.

Starbucks Corp. tapped sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy as its next design partners for a series of limited-edition products for the holiday season. There'll be Rodarte-designed gift cards, tote bags, cup sleeves and mugs. The signature pattern features a pixelated checkerboard of gray, white and silver set against different shades of green.

It's not specifically "holiday," but that's intentional.

For the design duo, it's a chance to put their name _ and their style _ out to a new audience. Typically, their fashion designs are edgy, conceptual styles that are not necessarily in line with mass-market taste.

"Our clothing is specialized," Laura Mulleavy said in an interview, "and when we are thinking of Rodarte, we choose things that say who we are as designers, but we're not limited to that. We like the idea of collaborations and putting our thought process somewhere else."

This project marks Starbucks' first foray into fashion, said Samie Barr, vice president of category brand management, but the company sees it as "putting us on the map as a true inspirational gifting destination."

It's OK that not all their customers will recognize Rodarte. "We felt we had a broad audience of customers. We look for unique and differentiated, not necessarily looking for `mainstream.' ... People buy with their eyes."

Laura Mulleavy said designing the products came fairly easy, especially since they are daily coffee drinkers, but it was a challenge to adapt to the small surface of the gift card.

The look also had to appeal to both men and women, not something in Rodarte's usual womenswear repertoire.