LOS ANGELES — Film critics are abuzz over actress Natalie Portman's work in the new big-screen "Black Swan," but fashionistas are flipping over something else: the film's forward-thinking ballet costumes by Rodarte, the insider-favorite label by sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy.
"Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky said he and the costume designer Amy Westcott wanted to use a contemporary fashion designer "to take it to a new level."
"We wanted to reinvent the whole sense of 'Swan Lake,'" he said.
Portman, who has been spotted in the front row of Rodarte runway shows during New York Fashion Week, had a relationship with the designers.
"I remember seeing a dress of theirs at a photo shoot, and just going, `What is that?'" recalled Portman. "I don't have that reaction to clothes very often. It is not something that I really pay attention to that much. But it was just so beautiful. When we were doing this film, I just knew how balletic their clothes were."
Rodarte had, coincidentally, already tapped into horror films and ballet – the same elements that are the foundation of "Black Swan" – as inspiration for past collections.
"We had an affinity for the subject matter," noted Kate Mulleavy. "We had never done a film. ... This would be a dream job in terms of just getting to make tutus. But, then we had, I think, something that allowed us to add to access the psychology of the film in a different way, which was understanding the darker nature and more of the twisted kind of underbelly of that world."
Nevertheless, producing fashion-forward ballet costumes proved a challenge. "Well, I think that the big question was, `How do you make something look realistic as a tutu and function?'" explained Laura Mulleavy.
Sometimes style took precedence over function. "You would never go and do `Swan Lake' and wear a full-on swan outfit without having a strap" to hold the outfit up, said actress Mila Kunis. "Given that it is in a movie and it is a certain form of disbelief. They had no straps. So, the busts kept constantly falling, you know. And so you make it work. You figure it out. But they were beautiful."
Portman remains a fan and friend of the designers. "They are really kind," Portman said. "They are really curious about every sort of area of the world. They know everything about ecology and art and modern science. You are like, `I don't understand how they have so much room in their brains.' It's amazing."
"Black Swan" opens in the U.S. this weekend.