Time changes and with it evolves and the concept of haute couture. Remaining the privilege of the rich, clothes become more realistic: in addition to pure aesthetics, they become practical. Now couture dress may not just stay on a hanger to be admired from time to time, but also can be put on for special occasions, and even not once. And on the Paris scene rule new kings of high fashion, those who are replacing the masters of the last century – they are young, talented and ambitious, they are the “new wave”, the future of haute couture is in their hands. We met Stéphane Rolland, “the architect” of fashion, a 100 percent Parisian in all meanings of this word, in his studio on the famous Avenue George V in Paris. He talked with us on the eve of his visit to Kiev, he will be presenting his latest collection (FW2010).
Background: where are you coming from (origin), how did you get to fashion, where studied and what did you do before opening you own haute couture house?
I think that all my life I wanted to be a fashion designer. My first sketch which I made when I was 4 years old was a lady in a dress… since then I had three wishes: the first one – to be a fashion designer, the second one – to be a singer and the third – to be an actor. The biggest desire was however the first one, thus I followed that wish and I done my studies in Paris at l’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture. I travelled a lot at that time – I learned different cultures and the respect of those differences is what makes me more curious about people and life in general. When I finished my studies my first job was at Balenciaga. In one year I became the youngest artistic manager, I was 21 year old, for all men’s wear and all international licenses. After that I started my own prêt-à-porter company which I run for 10 years till Jean-Louis Scherrer fashion house asked me to become their artistic manager – the proposition which I accepted al stayed with this group for 10 years. It was a fantastic experience – for the first time in my life I was an official couturier of the house, I met a new world, and because of my previous experiences, my love to travel, my curiosity I brought a new philosophy and the very good revenues to Jean-Louis Scherrer haute couture house. After 10 years I decided to become independent, I had my own vision and strategy which were not the same as those of Jean-Louis Scherrer owners. Thus I opened my company nearly 4 years ago presenting only haute couture line, and I am very satisfied with its success but it’s only the beginning. As my real wish is to create a company with the Paris haute couture culture which unites prêt-à-porter, haute couture, accessories and jewelry lines.
How would describe your clients?
They are very international. Most of them are from the Middle East but also from France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, England, South America, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. A few clients come from Ukraine as far as we are just starting there.. what unifies them is probably their social position – I dress the most powerful people in this world. It’s quite a small group of people who live in different countries, travel a lot and know each other – their way of life is similar.
Creating your dresses do you try to satisfy their tastes or its more them who are attracted by your style?
When my clients come to see me the essential thing they are looking for is the Parisian spirit within the perfect tailoring. For them I represent the real French couturier, the famous ‘French touch’. My style is very strong, architectural and plain at the same time– as I think that a beautiful woman doesn’t need a complicated dress or plenty of accessories but a good cut which shows her body’s value and a natural elegancy of movements. With my dresses I help her, and not cover.
Woman of Stephan Rolland – how does she look like?
It’s not my concept as far as I dress all women. I don’t have a muse. My job is not to dress only models but women in general. What is amazing is to see how a woman becomes more beautiful and sexy in my dresses. It could be a personal challenge for me – but it’s worthy!
Have you already worked with Ukrainian (Russian) clients? Ever been to these countries? If yes, what did impress you most about the countries and people? How do you see their style? In which way it differs from your usual clients?
The last time I went to Ukraine was 8 years ago, so I think I will not recognize Kiev! The feeling that I had then was that people were living the period of transition from difficult past to something new. The country was reappearing. The people were learning to live new life, how to dress also.. whatsoever the Ukrainian lades were and are amazing! Very beautiful not only externally but also internally- you have that pride, force and energy that allow you to get what you want. Beside that Ukrainian and Russian women manage to keep their “feminity” despite the difficult life. Coming from Mediterranean I understand Ukrainians and Russians vey well – we have something in common in our characters, in the way we were raised.
And I’m very impatient to rediscover Ukrainians and to see how they changed.
Why did you decide to make a show in Ukraine? Were you approached by the organizers of the show or was the initiative coming from some other origin?
Just after my last Parisian show I was contacted by Top Ukraine and invited to come to Kiev. I saw that the people were serious as well as the whole organization and I accepted with pleasure.
What are your expectations from the show?
To be loved by Ukrainian ladies, of course!…if to be serious what I’m doing is taking up 90 percent of my time – and I love my job and want it to be successful. I’m also a businessman and looking for new clients and new boutiques to open. Ukraine is a good place for developing my brand.
Will you plan to create a special ‘Slavic’ collection for your future Ukrainian and Russian clients?
My clients are looking for ‘Parisian’ touch and not for their country specialization in my collection. They want ‘Stéphane Rolland’ style.
Sources of inspiration?
Modern art, architecture, sculpture, photography. For my last collection I was inspired by Anish Kapoor. That’s an English sculptor who originally comes from India. I love his work because it’s strong, architectural and monumental. I don’t like small things – so his art reflects my own vision and ideas.
Your last collection – could you describe it?
It was a very architectural collection, where I played a lot with the movement; it has many round shapes like those you can find in the Anish Kapoor sculpture. A stone polished by the sea. I used the organic colors: grey, black, dark brown and blue remind of the sky and ocean’s reflections. Urban colors as well since all these colors are also the city colors. And finally the mineral colors – all facets of diamonds and sapphires. I used a lot of gauze as I can easily get the volumes I want using it; hand painted leather, velvet to get reflections and of course organza.
What are from your point of view the 5 musts for a woman’s wardrobe?
Black tuxedo, little black dress, a pair of perfect black shoes, perfect white blouse, a pair of simple high–heel shoes. The key is the simplicity and good cut. It’s better to invest in one good and expensive thing that lasts than in many cheap ones. Because at the end you spend even more money on them..
And what to do with the trends which change from one season to another?
Chose the timeless things and those you feel comfortable with, do not follow fashion trends from magazines – be yourself.
Your free time which you don’t have a lot but still – how you spend it?
I love photography and currently I’m even preparing a book of my photos.. The only problem I have is to find some time which I’m short of.. I travel a lot, mostly for my job. But my primary task is to build the company and I enjoy this job!
Interview was taken by Rodion Denisyuk and Tatiana Stolyarova (Luuk Magazine/Haute Couture News) specially for Glavred Magazine, Kiev.
Photo credits: Luuk Magazine / Haute Couture News