There’s no denying it: the world’s fashion radar is zooming in on the Parisian couturier Stéphane Rolland. Not only do Cheryl Cole, Rihanna and HH Sheikha Mozah of Qatar confirm the X-factor of his dresses but his haute-hedonistic masterpieces have recently made the Paris couture a sit-up-and-pay-attention affair. Fashion gazers take note: Monsieur Rolland isn’t stopping the style train here. He’s steaming ahead with a ready-to-wear line, expanding his accessories collection, delving into interior design, dabbling with spicy and exotic undertones for his first fragrance and even talking diffusion lines. Style caught up with him during the hectic Paris haute couture shows to find out just what he has up his very stylish sleeve for 2011…
Thanks so much for sparing the time to chat with us. How do you feel, just a few days before your spring couture show?
Strangely, I am very tranquil as I have such great faith in the work of my atelier. But it’s an electric time, this lead-up.
In just a few years you have become one of the leading haute couture designers. To what do you attribute your success?
I suppose it is because I’m very close to my clients and they trust my response to their needs. Last season was the most successful I have ever had.
Cheryl Cole is a big fan of yours. Do you think this has helped raise your profile outside the world of haute couture?
Cheryl’s endorsement has definitely helped us to reach a wider audience. We have also been associated with royalty, including HRH Queen Rania of Jordan and HH Sheikha Mozah. This was a dream! But stars like Cheryl have brought tabloid attention, which is interesting and far-reaching.
You had your own label in the past and it wasn’t an easy ride for you. Do you think that experience helped you reach where you are today?
I was 25, managing a team of 70, with 80 sales points, so you can imagine the pressure. But I learnt how important it is to be surrounded by not only the best advisers, but also a strong team. In the past four years, I have built my new ‘family’ and I take more time in developing the brand.
It seems that there’s no stopping you: from haute couture to handbags and now the much-anticipated ready-to-wear line…
Yes. I decided to move into RTW because it’s organic, an evolution you would expect, and this is how the brand can grow and strengthen. The couture is the flagship and the RTW is its natural wake.
So what can we expect from the collection?
It will carry the same mood as Stéphane Rolland Haute Couture. This essence can be easily translated, as I want my RTW to be luxurious. The priority is to keep the savoir faire and to find the best partners to support my ambitions. I can also tell you that I plan to divide it into different segments, but I don’t want to reveal the specifics too soon.
Was the attention from Cole, Rihanna and other celebrities another reason to develop a line that is more affordable for a younger market?
It was not directly because of the celebrities but simply in order to reach out to more categories of people. Of course, celebrities often do become the references.
You also launched a handbag line last year. What can we expect from this line in the near future?
The initial line was very exclusive couture bags in crocodile and gold but now I will extend this to provide more choice and a more accessible price range.
What do you think of today’s trend for diffusion lines and collaborations, such as Lanvin for H&M? Is this something you might do?
It has been interesting to see luxury made more ‘democratic’ but, of course, it depends on the co-branding. Customers love the feeling of a win-win combination. I could have fun doing it, so why not?
And is there any truth in the rumour that you’re planning a fragrance?
Yes. Mixing incense oils has been a passion since I was a child. I adore exotic, spicy scents. You can probably smell the bakhoor from my office all the way down Avenue George V. I can’t wait to launch a fragrance but I want it to be exquisitely subtle.
Back to your latest spring haute couture collection. What is its signature?
The signature is the light derived from warm Indian summer colours, as well as the light reflecting from the hand-blown glass and pure gold accessories that I’m incorporating.
How does it differ from previous collections?
It is a natural evolution. In terms of technique, haute couture is always about venturing into the very best there is, using the best means available, in a sort of modernistic sense of progression. So I continue to seek out and collaborate with different artists, and only the most creative and talented. This time it was Paris’s finest glass-blower.
What else inspired the collection in terms of sculpture and shape?
I had an image of Gandhi in my mind, the way he was draped in his dhoti. I was also inspired by the generous shapes you find in the chuba (the traditional Tibetan coat). I mixed the softness and sensuality of the former with the strength of the latter. I was also inspired by the black-and-white nature pictures of the great Edward Weston in the 1930s and ’40s.
Do you have plans to move into interior or furniture design?
I am working on the future look of our boutiques as it gives me the chance to express my passion for architecture and interior design. I think chair design, for instance, has a lot in common with tailoring. We shall see where this might go.
What do you think of Dubai’s architecture?
It is nothing short of woozy! I think many of Dubai’s architects enjoy expressing their internal fantasies. What a project Dubai has been over the last 20 years! It is truly intoxicating… Burj Khalifa is quite simply outside the bounds of reality; it is something out of a science fiction movie!
Why do you think your fashion designs are so popular over here?
I guess because I am essentially a Bedouin! But, more seriously, I’m sure it comes from my love of the Arabic cultures and people. There is a quiet synchronicity that I think everyone understands.
Do you think Dubai is developing a style identity of its own?
Dubai is now an international metropolis, a huge melting pot. It’s also a very young city. Traditions aside, in a way Dubai is to the Middle East what New York is to America: a bustling city that never sleeps, and never can sleep.
If you could capture anything or anyone in Dubai to represent its spirit and style, what would it be?
It would be His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in traditional attire, alone in the desert. He is quintessentially Dubai. I find his eyes utterly intriguing.
When you come to Dubai what do you like to do?
I usually stay at Al Qasr Hotel and visit malls to analyse how the fashion market is evolving. The rest of my time is devoted to my friends who live there.
We want to see you more over here. When are you planning to return to Dubai?
I should be there soon – Dubai will be seeing more and more of me.
Stéphane Rolland Haute Couture is available strictly by appointment at the atelier and showroom on Avenue George V in Paris. Prices available on visit, otherwise not disclosed. For more information about Stéphane, go to his website, at www.stephanerolland.com