Known widely as the Prince of Couture, the French couturier Stephane Rolland is a stickler for details but does not fancy overly-embellished details. His span of designing career is one that is admirable and inspirational, and his grand vision for fashion is crystal clear; directional and revolutionary.
You see his Haute Couture dresses at some of the most glamorous formal red-carpet events. The man dresses some of the most extraordinary personalities, such as Solange Knowles, Cheryl Cole and Rita Ora, to name a few, who were all seen making news and headlines at the recent Cannes Film Festival and MTV awards, decked in his gorgeous gowns.Always extravagant yet classic, Stephane Rolland channels an epitome of elegance with sublime cuts, curves and flow, his dresses are never short of dramatic.
In certain ways, the burst of unexpected pleats and textured drapes in all his collection echo an easily recognisable style; signature even, that is iconic to him. We are most certainly delighted to witness his designs, as well as speak to him at FIDé Fashion Weeks 2013, after his successful showing at Paris Fashion Week 2013.
With luscious locks, draped scarf and a loose shirt, the Prince himself chose a pared down look for our interview which was conducted on the day before his show in Singapore. He greets with courteous mannerism and talks us through his collection while we pose questions to him, from the opening of his new Pret-A-Porter boutique and even to his thoughts and perception on the whole Couture entity.
Welcome back to Singapore! How does it feel like to be back since your showcase at FIDé Fashion Weeks in 2011?
STEPHANE: Thank you! I’m actually back because I’ve enjoyed my time here at the first season of Fide Fashion Weeks. So when Frank Cintamani asked me to come back this year, I told him yes immediately!
We also know that you have just opened your pret-a-porter store in Abu Dhabi! Congratulations on that! But why did you choose to open it in Abu Dhabi, despite being based in Paris?
STEPHANE: I chose Abu Dhabi because most of my customers for my haute couture line is from the Middle East. Therefore, I think it is important to start from there. Further more, Abu Dhabi is in the Emirates; it is private and international at the same time, so it is the best place to open my first boutique. I will be opening my second boutique in Kuwait City. I also intend to open boutiques in London and Asia and am currently searching for the right locations.
So there is a possibility that you would open one in Singapore?
STEPHANE: Yes, of course! That is also the reason why I’m here!
Great! We noticed that like most designers, you have actually started your designing career first as a Pret-a-Porter designer for Balenciaga, and then, you went on to start your own Pret-A-Porter brand, following that, an Haute Couturier as an official member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. What made you choose to venture back to your roots in Pret-A-Porter?
STEPHANE: For me, it wasn’t so much of going back to my roots. I actually have in my mind a program of how I want my brand to grow. By starting my first five years in Haute Couture, I aim to translate the DNA and essence of my brand to my customers. And now that people are familiar with it and can visualise what my fashion, my universe and my style is, I figured that it is the right moment to venture into Pret-A-Porter, as an extension of my brand. It is a fact that I can’t possibly do Couture alone.
As a designer, I need to see my dresses in the streets. I cannot work for only 1000 women in the world. Therefore, this is the reason why I chose to develop the shoes, the bags, the accessories and the Pret-A-Porter line of my brand.
People always coin Couture as the singular reason to go overly dramatic or overboard in details, styles and silhouettes. Some people even state that they are mostly over-the-top. What is your take on those statement?
STEPHANE: I believe that ‘less is more’ and ‘more is less’, and that is brand philosophy. So for me, I think that having too much embellishments on a dress proves that a designer is not good with his/her techniques. It is as though the designer wants to cover up with things. This can be relate to life too! If you are the sort of person who is very sincere to yourself, you would naturally feel free and at peace in simplicity. You don’t need any other add-ons.
Furthermore, my clients for the Haute Couture line already possesses some of the most beautiful jewellery in the world. Therefore, I feel that there is really no need to add embroidery or embellishments on the dresses. It would not only distract the attention away, it would also ruin the effect of their jewellery.
That is so true! So is this the reason why your designs are always bordering along the lines of simplicity and minimalism?
STEPHANE: Yes! Generally speaking, I am one who believes in the strength of the right cut with the right volume and movement. This is also the reason why architecture is the base of my work and one of my passion in life. A simple black dress, if well-made, can last for more than six years and would still be the most elegant dress in the world. And this is the direction of all my designs.
I see! So tell us about the collection that you will be showcasing at FIDé Fashion Weeks 2013.
STEPHANE: I am showcasing my Fall/Winter 2013 collection, the one which I have showcased during the last Haute Couture Week in Paris.
It was inspired by Diego Velazquez, a famous Spanish master painter from the 17th century. His paintings are iconic for depicting the royal courts of Spain in the 17th Century and in them, he painted very austere, strict and dark scenes, where people were noted to be wearing full blacks with accents of whites. The overall feel and look is rich yet strict, and that is exactly the kind of image I want to show in my collection, but of course, with my own modern interpretation. I aim to portray a more positive vibe, so you will see my experimentation with the many shades of blacks as well as midnight blues.
I would say that my collection this time round is an exact opposite of my last collection, which was very white and lyrical since it was inspired by music.
What is the main silhouette in your collection this season?
STEPHANE: Contrast, mainly with tight versus loose. For example, a tight body fit paired with large sleeves or large origami details. That way, they make the dresses look really interesting.
The bridal look is considered as the most important component for every couturier, and we noticed that you have always made it a point to close your show with renowned muses, firstly with Yasmin Le Bon, Fan Bingbing and for your Spring/Summer 2013, the formidable Carmen Dell’Orefice. What is the reason for it?
STEPHANE: Fun! It is not so much of using a famous face, but rather the fact that I love collaborating with artistes in general.
The show with Carmen Dell’Orefice, in particular, was great because Carmen is a fantastic person to work with. When I first saw her, I thought that she was made for the show. And since my Spring/Summer 2013 collection was all about lyrical and music and sculpture, I thought that Carmen fits in very well. If you look at the shape of her face and the structure of her bones, and the way she poses in front of the photographer, she is like a sculpture herself. So she was perfect for the finale of that collection.
For Fan Bingbing, she was like a bird, a swan. So when she wore the finale look of my Spring/Summer 2013 , which consists of a cape, she made it look like wings. And she embodies the whole entire image.
But for the closing of my collection this time round, I chose Nieves Alvarez, a Spanish model who is also a friend of mine. To me, I felt that she is one of the most fantastic top models and an icon in the fashion world. She envisioned my image of a Spanish bride. Alongside, I also invited Spanish celebrated flamenco dancer Rafael Armago (below, left) to perform a dance in the middle of my fashion show. I am the sort of designer who designs my collection with a story and choreography in mind; of how the background of my show should be, the type of music for the collection, as well as the models that I would use. So with the inclusion of Niveves and Rafael, they made the vision that I had in mind come true.
An inspiring individual, he even made it seem like a photo shoot of himself, when we asked to take a photo of him.. Text by Jessica Ye Photography (of Stephane Rolland) by Zureena Wahap All runway photos by FIDé Fashion Weeks