DANIELA CORTE WAVES AWAY the menu at Bouchée restaurant. She already knows what she wants — as does one of her closest friends, sitting to her right. “Watch. It’ll be the niçoise,” Ricardo Rodriguez says with a smirk. “Extra tomatoes instead of olives. Right? I know you.”
Fashion is inarguably more of a team sport than ever; witness the deluge of international retail and design dovetailings that have included everything from Marc Jacobs’s epic design guidance at Louis Vuitton down to a stream of disposable fashion one-hit wonders, à la Rodarte’s line for Target. Typically, however, local designers haven’t taken a page from such collaborations. And yet “typical” isn’t a word that applies to the fledgling partnership between Corte and Rodriguez. The two initially teamed up to produce Corte’s brand-new Warrior collection, and in the process discovered such undeniable artistic synergy that Corte asked Rodriguez to hop onboard as her creative director.
The most obvious partnership in town, it’s not. Whereas Corte made her name designing daring but wearable women’s clothing — both ready-to-wear and custom — Rodriguez rose in another industry: real estate. (He’ll continue in the field while working with Corte.) “I do what I call ‘lifestyle selling,'” he explains, “meaning I sell properties not just on their facts, but based on how I perceive people will use them, and how buyers identify themselves.” That macro-snapshot philosophy, says Corte, is what she saw lacking in her branding — and by virtue of that, her designs. “It’s his bigger focus that I want,” she says. “He pushes me to think in new directions.”
Not that she’s ever really played it safe (just ask anyone clad in one of her plunging-neckline numbers). But Corte says she’s never quite dialed it up the way she wanted to. “I got tired of making mostly wrap dresses just because I knew they would sell,” she says. “Maybe it’s because we are close friends that we were able to get into each other’s heads. But we finally identified the life our clients want to lead.”
So just who are these elusive sylphs, then? “They’re fearless in their fashion,” she says. “And we want to be fearless.”