A name ringing with elegance, Stéphane Rolland dons his feminine designs on female figures and stars all around the world. Arab culture is omnipresent in his collection, which in turn boosts his admiration in the region. An example is his latest collection where kaftans reign over his designs crafted in his Parisian atelier. Our sister publication Sayidaty sat down with Rolland and delved into the root of his Middle Eastern influences, his desire to empower women through clothing, and the future of fashion.
Stéphane Rolland, you always seem to be fascinated by the East. Your time as a designer for Maison Jean-Louis Scherrer revealed your amazement with Moroccan and Middle Eastern cultures. Any particular reason?
Maybe because my mother was born in Casablanca, my grandmother grew up between Tunisia and Egypt. In general, I am really fascinated by the culture of the Middle East, it attracts me with its mystery and richness. In a way, I am multicultural but I have to say the magic of the Middle East and the Arab world is irresistible.
I have visited most of the Arab and Middle Eastern countries, and every time, I have come to discover something new and amazing. It was a shockingly positive experience and a source of inspiration.
Being of French origin, how did you relate to the Arab culture?
A journalist once told me a long time ago that I was Lawrence of Arabia of the haute couture world. However, what is important at the present time is to appreciate all tastes, to observe, to learn, to love. Beauty associated with Islam and Arab culture is truly wonderful. I remember visiting a mosque in Damascus and being captivated by the beauty of the walls covered with golden mosaics and the numerous frescoes that reflect the nature.
Your collections always stand out with a bold and cosmopolitan geometrical touch that suits all women all over the world. How did your signature style come to be?
I dedicate my designs to all women of all ages, nationalities and sizes. My job is simply to dress them in the most beautiful outfits. My style is characterized by a sculpting movement that adds to a woman's elegance. My teacher once told me that I should understand the body and its anatomy then cover it properly with fabric. My excellent team completes my work and executes my designs exactly as I pictured them.
What is your main inspiration?
Inspiration come from emotions, a song, a sculpture, an image. All this blends into a muse.
How did you develop your ties with Arab culture, and do you speak Arabic?
Unfortunately, I am so busy that I cannot make time for Arabic lessons. But I promise you that one day I will.
You designed a kaftan collection, is it dedicated to the blessed month of Ramadan? Can you share more information?
Besides the new ready-to-wear collection and accessories, I've been wanting to introduce this kaftan collection for years. Made for women all around the world to enjoy a sense of elegance and charm, and welcome their guests reflecting their true selves. I wanted this set to be ready before Ramadan, but it is not just for this holy occasion, it is a gift to all the women who love caftans around the world.
Many celebrities wear your designs. Who is the Arab star that you would like to meet and dress?
I simply like to dress the people I love, like my friend Yusra. She lured me first with her talent. I'd like to dress Fayrouz someday. Her songs affect me so much.
Arab-style Pants are present in almost all of your collections, be it ready-to-wear or haute couture. Why?
I don't use pants ‘sirwal’ very often. However, there is always a hint or a touch of Arab culture in my collections. I like to mix comfort, sophistication and Western culture with Middle Eastern culture. My last collection has a gold "jumpsuit" with pants and wings sculpted in the back.
You have been to Saudi Arabia a few times. Are you inspired by the geography of the place and its people?
My first destination in the Middle East was Riyadh. My arrival was emotional: the smell of incense and noon prayer calls took over my senses. What I love the most, besides the desert, is to wander around the old town and get lost in the little alleys. Saudi Arabia is filled with wonderful and diverse sites such as the Asir region, which stands out with magnificent buildings and the beauty of its people.
What is the future of fashion after "Covid-19"?
More exciting. Fashion will go back to its roots with subtlety and sophistication.
The pandemic changed the course of our lives. Is our reality influencing your design process?
Never. My goal remains the same: to make women dream and add to their beauty, with or without a pandemic!
Your last message to the Arab women, specifically to the Saudi woman?
The power is in your hands. Don't let it go!