Stéphane Rolland

Stéphane Rolland on Celebrating 15 Years of His Couture House and Paying Homage to the Middle East

Stéphane Rolland on Celebrating 15 Years of His Couture House and Paying Homage to the Middle East

Celebrating 15 years of his haute couture house, Stéphane Rolland returns to the runway with his eternal muse Nieves Álvarez by his side.
Designer Stéphane Rolland with Nieves Álvarez. Vogue Arabia, April 2022. Photo: Bastien Lattanzio
“The interior is so chic, so absolutely perfect in its simplicity,” remarks Stéphane Rolland of the setting where he staged his SS22 runway show. Paris’s Théâtre de Chaillot was the location of choice for his couture house, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. The drama unfolded to “Somewhere” by Aretha Franklin, with models dressed in ethereal kaftans in shimmering satin and metallic crepe, contrasting with swirling chiffon skirts, in an understated palette of ivory, pearl, gold, copper, and black. Outsized jewelry and crystal embellishments were noteworthy, while belts and pendants crafted by master glassblower Théophile Caille added a chic, severe touch.
Rolland’s collection inspiration was the abstract expressionist paintings of the Spanish-Italian painter Viani, whose main themes were freedom and happiness. The second haute couture act unfolded, led by Rolland’s star model, Nieves Álvarez, dressed in a hooded golden blazer over wide-legged white wool pants. The Spanish supermodel has walked in every Stéphane Rolland haute couture show in the house’s existence. “Nieves is the top, the queen of my shows and queen of my heart,” states Rolland. “I love what Stéphane does, how he sees women, how he sees femininity,” Álvarez says. “His creations are unique and elegant pieces of art. I feel so special when I wear them. As a model, you need to understand the clothes, to feel what the designer, who has been working so hard, is trying to say, and bring these works of art to life.”
Vogue Arabia, April 2022. Photo: Bastien Lattanzio
As the show continued featuring gowns with his signature architectural sculpting, cowl necks, and bustle backs, a hooded and draped asymmetric kaftan stood out in “poured gold” gauze – Rolland’s homage to the Middle East. “Stones and pebbles are one of my signature symbols,” notes the couturier. “I integrated them to create a contrast with the fluidity of the dresses. As a child, I used to collect pebbles on the Promenade des Anglais beach in Nice. To me, they were jewels. I always loved their sensuality, shaped and polished by the sea, absorbing the heat of the sun,” he says. “My Middle Eastern clients are magnificent women, comfortable wearing sensual clothes, but in a cleverly calculated way,” he considers. “It’s never too much; they understand perfectly how to interpret couture. If there’s a split, it’s not too high. If it’s too transparent, I’ll add a lining. It’s simply haute couture, I anticipate this from creation.”
Stéphane Rolland’s sketch for the wedding dress of HRH Princess Hussa bint Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
In 2021, Rolland designed the wedding dress of HRH Princess Hussa bint Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the only daughter of King Salman and sister of HRH The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. Her dream was to wear a gown that paid tribute to her country and its culture. “Together, we decided to create a contemporary gown by reinterpreting the bisht,” recalls Rolland. “Normally, an haute couture bridal gown takes about 300 hours to create. This gown required more than 600 hours of couture craftsmanship. It is in white silk organza, embroidered in silver and white silk thread, and embellished with natural pearls and crystals. My inspiration was the branches of flowers seen on traditional mosaics. The veil forms part of the bisht.” HRH Princess Al Saud wore a white gold Hamaa tiara and cuffs designed by her late mother, HRH Princess Sultana bint Turki bin Ahmed Al Sudairi, with the jeweler Jahan; a touching inclusion of her mother at the ceremony.
Vogue Arabia, April 2022. Photo: Bastien Lattanzio
Rolland’s affinity with the Middle East – Qatar, Syria, Lebanon, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia in particular – has earned him the sobriquet the Lawrence of Arabia of couture. He was fascinated by Arabia from early childhood when his mother, who was born in Morocco, introduced him to Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights. After receiving his diploma from the Chambre Syndicale De La Haute Couture Parisienne, Rolland presented his portfolio to Pierre Bergé at Yves Saint Laurent. Bergé looked through it and said, “Not here – Balenciaga,” recalls the couturier. Rolland was swiftly hired at Balenciaga, and at 22, became the youngest art director in Paris. At 24, he launched his ready-to-wear label, then was named official designer at Jean-Louis Scherrer, where he stayed for 10 years before founding his own maison in 2007.
To Rolland’s amazement, he notes that the late Vogue editor André Leon Talley once called him a designer with an immense talent and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s heir. “I was so touched,” remarks Rolland. “We never met. I wrote him a letter and sent him a text to thank him and to invite him to my next show. I never received a reply, then we heard he had passed away. I sincerely regret never meeting this icon of fashion.” In the early years of his couture house, Rolland began traveling to meet his clients in Riyadh. It was love at first visit; he immediately felt at home and journeyed widely throughout the Middle East.
Vogue Arabia, April 2022. Photo: Bastien Lattanzio
He received his first haute couture order from HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar. Rolland’s close ties with the region were most recently bolstered with the commission to design the costumes for Al Wasl Opera for Expo Dubai 2020. It is the world’s first Arabic opera, composed by Mohammed Fairouz and directed by Sir David Pountney in collaboration with the Welsh National Opera. In a satisfying fullcircle moment, the opera was narrated by Scheherazade as a little girl.
Vogue Arabia, April 2022. Photo: Bastien Lattanzio
Read Next: Couturier Stéphane Rolland on Launching His Long Anticipated Kaftan and Djellaba Collection
Originally published in the April 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Hair: Yuta UmedaMakeup: Tom Sapin for Mac Cosmetics FranceStyle assistant: Manon MeyreLocation: Hotel Alfred Sommier 

Couturier Stéphane Rolland on Launching His Long Anticipated Kaftan and Djellaba Collection

Couturier Stéphane Rolland on Launching His Long Anticipated Kaftan and Djellaba Collection

Courtesy of Stéphane Rolland
Haute couture designer Stéphane Rolland presents his debut kaftan collection for SS21 with 11 looks that incorporate djellabas, bisht coats, jumpsuits, and Zouave pants. The collection is made-to-measure in Paris with luxurious fabrics like cotton cashmere, silk damask, velvet, and crepe de chine with hand-embellishment and jewel incrustations. “You could call it Collection Zero,” smiles the couturier in his new Avenue de Villiers, Paris, showroom. “It’s a concept that’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. I have always had a passionate relationship with the Middle East. When I was working for Jean-Louis Scherrer in the Nineties, I insisted on visiting our clients to see them in their own environment. I was the first haute couture designer to visit Riyadh in 1997.” Arabian women have always fascinated him. “Appearance is extremely important, but the elegance in the way that they assimilate their mode of dress, how they sit, how they move, their hand gestures – it’s a ballet. That first visit was a revelation. I began wearing a Bisht coat over my dinner jacket. Everyone found it extremely chic. Women began ordering them from me. My first order was from HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar.”
Courtesy of Stéphane Rolland
The seed for this collection was sown. Rolland now intends for it to become a staple of his eponymous maison. “It marks a real return to elegance with exquisite quality. I wanted to channel the iconic women who began wearing kaftans in the Sixties, like Elizabeth Taylor and Marisa Berenson.” For this collection, Rolland extended his palette with yellow saffron and sand, then earth neutrals, pearl gray, olive-bronze, and oud wood. Pieces are embellished with hand-embroidery, rolled gold chains, gray tanzanite, and crystals by the maison’s Parisian ateliers. It is vital that these French couture skills are kept alive. Then, each design is made-to-measure in Paris for each client. It’s sustainable luxury.” Rolland’s digital show, along with these images, feature his favorite model, Nieves Álvarez, at the Théâtre de la Villette. The two met when they were both 20 and Álvarez was the last muse of Yves Saint Laurent. “She has the most unique way of walking I have ever seen, gliding, with an extreme sensuality,” he comments.
Courtesy of Stéphane Rolland
“She has the Spanish pride and the grace of a toreador, but her elegance and gestures are oriental.” Álvarez attests that Rolland creates for the self-confident, independent woman. “His designs, with their architectural proportions, volume, and movement are pure magic. He creates this beautiful mood that always fills me with light.”
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Originally published in the March 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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