Stéphane Rolland On Sensuality and Style Icons

Fashion

September 27, 2011 | BY Annabelle Teo & Dana Koh

French fashion designer, Stéphane Rolland, chats about his eponymous haute couture brand, inspirations, and a fascination with Asia

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Stéphane Rolland clearly loves women. Speaking effusively about his inspirations, he pinpoints the sensuality of sculptures, which he likens to the form of a woman. It's no surprise, then, that his elegantly-cut gowns have found favour in the likes of Cheryl Cole, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Queen Rania of Jordan, who count amongst his famous clients. When quizzed about who the 'Stéphane Rolland woman' is, the couturier says, "She is a woman with her own philosophy of living life. She is a strong woman, educated and has a strong sense of belonging to her culture."

The term 'haute couture' has oftentimes been applied loosely, but Rolland is a full member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (he studied fashion at l'Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne), and thus his brand can officially bear the 'haute couture' label. His career began at age 20, when he was hired by Balencianga to work on the menswear collections. He was promoted to creative director within a year. Fast forward a decade, where he took on a new challenge of haute couture at Jean-Louis Scherrer - at 30 years old, Rolland was the youngest French couturier on Avenue Montaigne, Paris.

On July 2, 2007, the first Stéphane Rolland Haute Couture show was presented, marking the launch of Rolland's couture house at 10 Avenue George V in Paris.

Come October, Rolland will stage a runway show for his fall/winter 2011 collection in Singapore, during Women's Fashion Week taking place during October 26 to 30, 2011. Recently in town to offer a preview of his upcoming haute couture show in Singapore, Rolland spoke to Asia Tatler about his love for sculptures, Asian culture and the inspiration that comes from a woman's sensuality.

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Asia Tatler: What are your impressions of Singapore so far?
Stéphane RollandWhen we left the airport and on the expressway, I saw how the trees and bushes were perfectly cut, everything was so clean, peaceful and beautiful, it was as if I had arrived in a different world and I love that. In terms of design, I think Singapore's skyline is contemporary and audacious, but I really do need to discover more, and look forward to doing so in October when I get back for Women's Fashion Week.

AT: A lot of your designs have a very sculptural feel - what are some of your biggest sources of inspiration?
SR:
 When I was a child, I was fascinated by the Japanese architecture because of the minimalism, clean lines and straight to the point design. Sculptures and paintings, too, have always inspired me - everything that is designed according to light, volume and shape. Always round, sculptures make you want to caress it as if it's a woman's body, it's a very sensual art form and for me, the sense of touch is very important in the creative process. When you caress a fabric, or even stone or marble, it's the same with caressing the skin, it has to be sensual.

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AT: Who is the Stéphane Rolland woman?
SR: 
She is a woman with her own philosophy of living life. She is a strong woman, educated and has a strong sense of belonging to her culture. She is a woman who knows what she wants, where she wants to go and who she wants to be, yet isn't afraid of revealing her fragile, feminine and sensible side.

AT: Who do you consider style icons?
SR:
 I used to be crazy about Sophia Loren. The characters and actresses in Italian cinema and American movies and musicals served as great inspiration for me. Today, however, I am most inspired by art in general. Icons are art pieces, and my icons are women in general. I create dresses according to my visions of art pieces and architecture.

AT: Your current collection is inspired by cao shu, a style of Chinese calligraphy. How did you first discover Asian culture?
SR: 
As a child, I was fascinated by Asia from books, photographs and films... even in my dreams. In particular was the story of Aladdin. Known as an Arab boy, Aladdin was portrayed as a Chinese boy, and reading it introduced me to this culture. He had on a traditional Chinese outfit with a little Chinese boy braid to match. I finally journeyed to Asia in my 20s, which deepened my inspirations.

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AT: Tell us more about your upcoming ready-to-wear collection. How will this complement your couture line?
SR: 
The ready-to-wear line will be a luxurious selection of limited editions that are wearable and more accessible. On top of quality evening wear, I'll have a Black Line with tuxedos and little black dresses for every day and night, with chic accessories to match. By delivering this quality and same style philosophy to more women, it is already complementing my couture line as well. The process of creating both lines is nearly the same for me, but the main difference is the relationship with the client. One allows me to fully understand and satisfy the client with a gown that epitomises her spirit and beauty, while the other extends this style philosophy to even more women. Both collections give me two different pleasures and expression.

AT: What is next for Stéphane Rolland?
SR:
 The development of our boutiques, with 20 boutiques set to open worldwide in five years, haute couture parfum that stems from my love for fragrances, exciting collaborations with architects and artists and of course, the new limited edition luxury handbags collection, which stars elevated versions of the Morella evening clutch and Taleeta handbag.