Young French couturier Stephane Rolland tells us why haute couture is a calling
Tale of a vision of One Thousand and One Nightsby Natalia Grgona
Stephane Rolland is good-looking, elegant and has a couture fashion house under his name. He welcomed Madame Grès, worked alongside Cristobel Balenciaga and was the artistic director at the Jean-Louis Scherrer house for 10 years. In 2007, at just 40 years old, he founded his own label and moved into the salons of the former Balenciaga private mansion on Avenue George V. His dresses, unique haute couture creations, don’t cost less than 30,000 Euros. He is Luxos Paris’ special guest and just like his dresses, Stephane Rolland made us dream of creativity and of haute couture.
You are the latest arrival to the couturier circle (in December 2008) – a judicially protected term – and also the youngest to do haute couture. Is it a dream fulfilled?
It was a childhood dream, because I was a child when I understood that that was going to be my job and nothing else. Six months after my first collection under my own name (in 2007), I salvaged the entire team from the Jean-Louis Scherrer ateliers because the fashion house no longer wanted to do haute couture. These are people with whom I collaborated for ten years. So for the recognition of my team I feel it is important that the house has this label of haute couture. Usually the Federation of Couturiers require at least four years (either haute couture collections) before a fashion house can come before the committee but, taking my experience and that of my craftsmen into account, along with the seriousness of the house, of the business figures (5 million Euros in 2008), I skipped a few steps, as I have done my whole life.
Have you always wanted to do haute couture?
When you have in front of you images of Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, who have always been the great architects of couture, you are marked for life. I saw the great moments of these couture giants. Haute couture is not an end. It’s the cherry on the cake, the diamond on the crown. It’s something really amazing. It’s like having Formula 1 on one side and luxury cars on the other. Haute couture is a whole other experience like Formula 1, and ready-to-wear is the Rolls Royce, the Bentley. With Haute Couture you enter into the intimacy of people and it’s enriching in a completely different way, very psychological.
Is it important for a couture house to be situated in the Triangle d’Or in Paris?
When I signed the contract here 20 years ago, it was sheer coincidence. I got back the office in which I started my career. It was the last place I visited as I wanted to set up shop away from the past. And when I stepped into these offices once again there was a soul, a smell. Something seized me and I said “of course it’s here that I have to establish myself”! Then it’s also the location. You cannot ask a clientele of extremely powerful, wealthy people to go to the other end of Paris. Haute couture remains the Triangle D’Or, it’s the Avenue Montaigne. It’s Paris. It’s the dream. We are there to make our customers dream, to bring them joy, happiness and the “magic” as well.
A special commission? A memory?
I’ve had really spectacular wedding dresses. One was for a coronation. I did a wedding dress for a Middle Eastern princess. It was pearl gray with a yellow gold coat entirely embroidered with crystals and gold and silver thread. It weighed a ton but it was a vision from A Tale of One Thousand and One Nights. The dress was flawless and it was simply a work of mind-blowing embroidery with this courtly coat. More recently for a young actress I designed a very modern wedding dress. I created a simple wraparound bustier in off-white cream with an immense white muslin coat with a train. I banked on the quantity of muslin – 40 meters – and the volume of the coat when she went down the aisle. It was a truly virginal and pure image. These two dresses were uplifting to make. I was tingling. I was completely fulfilled, even though they were two completely different commissions.
Stephane Rolland in a few words:
Your travel destination? As I travel a lot for my work, either I go to an unknown destination or I go to relax around the people I love in Biarritz. Tangiers for me is the Morocco of artists and of freedom. In Istanbul, I like to wake up and see the boats passing the Bosporus. For me, that is luxury, it’s being able to go and see my friends. It doesn’t matter where or when.
City? Venice, since I’m very romantic. I’ve been to Venice, and it has remained as an extraordinary memory.
Your favourite addresses in Paris? I love to eat at the lounge of the Hotel de la Trémouille. I like to put on weight at the Grande Venise, Le Costes, le café de Flore on the weekend, Caviar Caspia for its ambiance.
Bag? Inevitably the one which I’m launching next month.
Jewellery? A necklace belonging to a maharaja by Cartier in the 1920s and another worn by Sophia Loren, made by Bulgari in the 1960s.
A piece of clothing? A smoking jacket and then the idea of an indoor dress. Like hostesses used to wear at the end of the 1960s, a fluid damask dress…
The greatest happiness? Having people you love around you.
Azza Fahmy, Egypt’s foremost jewellery designer
Sophie Delafontaine from Longchamp