Imagine a perfectly straight line of ink. Not a smudge or microdroplet out of place, its linearity clean and precise. Now, imagine it was hand drawn. Simple in theory, scarcely possible in execution. Yet, for Stephane Rolland, one of Paris’ most celebrated Haute Couturiers, the art of flawless simplicity is a hand-crafted reality.
“Pure, clean shapes are the most difficult to do,” explains the designer from his sprawling, light-filled new headquarters in Paris’ bougie 16th arrondissement, “You have to find the right fabric and it has to be finished perfectly. ‘Less is more, more is less’ as we used to say.”
With fans in Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Naomi Campbell—to name a few—Rolland’s signature paradoxical aesthetic of high-octane glamour at its most relaxed, (think: swathes of silk and surface detail, but realised as a gauzy, wide-legged jumpsuit) has enticed his couture clientele—often members of high society, modern aristocracy and royalty—since the inception of his eponymous brand in 2007. A perfect fit for Netflix’s campy, high fashion romp, Emily In Paris, which sees the titular character (a worthy descendant of Carrie Bradshaw, certainly) in one of Rolland’s creations at a most pivotal scene. The pristine white dress that Emily wears at the designer auction, only to be sprayed with slate grey cement by a rogue art collective—and indeed, all the creations that hang in the designer showroom when she first lays eyes upon it—is the sculptural handiwork of Monsieur Rolland.
At 21, appointed the youngest creative director of Balenciaga ever (Rolland oversaw the menswear and international licenses) he went on to have a prolific design career, starting his own ready-to-wear company and simultaneously designing costumes for film, before being appointed artistic designer for the now-defunct haute couture house, Jean-Louis Scherrer, whose founder dressed the likes of Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Kennedy.
His expertise, embellishment, is an event in itself, almost always built-in to the gown. Floating, crystal-encrusted collars, a jet black, sequinned silk gazaar ‘sculpture’ weighted onto a lamé chiffon disco gown, one white, long-sleeve gown in particular, finished with optical fibres and crystals that created something of an aura of brilliance around the wearer—a perfect circle of chic.
This year ahead will see Rolland roll out the first of many exciting additions to his Haute Couture offerings. There are advanced talks of Asian expansion and a fragrance as well as hints to a ready-to-wear collection, but first, as of this month, the launch of his first line of leather goods. “It is intimate,” Rolland describes of his decision to launch a bag line, (helped along by to client demand, who previously only had access by made-to-order). “I said, ‘I want sensuality, elegance, modernity.’ I want something ergonomic, that you’d like to carry.”
No doubt, the ‘Pop’ speaks to the aesthetic of his couture collections. Available in three sizes and textures including leather, suede, crocodile and satin, the colour palette rings true to the designer’s aesthetic in black, beige, brown, camel, and a particularly stunning saffron yellow, finished with two ‘globes’ on either end of the strap—either in gold or paved with crystal.
Often generous in length and luxurious of spirit, a Stephane Rolland creation is an event in itself, debuted during Haute Couture week in the most glamorous of locations shown at historical sites that beat at the heart of Parisian arts and culture. Previous shows have seen Rolland present at the neo-baroque-style Palais Garnier or the Theatre National de l’Opera Comique—grand settings to suit the designer’s own sweeping, diaphanous looks.
With his love of surface embellishment, I ask him what other parallels his design hand may have with Indian couture. Had he ever been inspired by a sari, perhaps? “The stones—rubies and emeralds—and the stories of the Maharajas and Maharanis, what a past!” He pauses for a moment. “But, when I come to India, I wouldn’t feel right staying in the old palaces, that are now hotels. I’d see the furniture and the paintings that belonged to the original owners and think, ‘Oh my god! I can’t stay! They didn’t invite me!’”
Somehow, it’s hard to imagine Rolland not being warmly welcomed by India’s abundant ruling class of old. Especially if he were to bring along an armful of his new bags.Also read:
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