Fashion designer Roland Mouret recently traveled to Chicago’s Neiman Marcus to celebrate the arrival of his SS/11 collection. Sitting down with Pret Reporteur Amanda Aldinger, he discusses the gentleness of menswear, the tenacity of the American woman and the opening of his first flagship in London.
SCS: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your inspiration for this collection.
RM: As a designer you have to project yourself one year in advance. And we’re going through such uncertain times in social politics that it’s quite weird for a designer [to determine] what a woman is going to want to wear next year. My way to face that is to be even bolder and to be even straighter about what my vision is. To be positive with it, and to say â€œOkay. If it has to be a collection, I want it even more pure, more minimalist, more straight to the point.â€ And that’s how I approached this collection. It’s that kind of attitude. It’s trying to get rid of the frills and just going to the point.
SCS: You’re just getting into menswear now, too.
SCS: I’m interested in knowing what you like about designing for the different genders, and what kinds of challenges are presented.
RM: You know, for me, fashion is a language without words. And sometimes, a woman will wear something and her father will say â€œWhat are you wearing?! I don’t get it â€¦ the shoes, I don’t like.â€ And other times, a man will say, â€œWow.â€ He will have this sparkle in his eyes like he just discovered you and has never met you before, and often, that’s the beauty of clothes. Clothes are like food, you know. A good dinner by yourself is a good dinner. A good dinner with someone you like, it becomes an amazing moment and you cherish that. My way to approach menswear is in that relationship, with the man wearing clothes because he’s got a woman in his life. How can you dress a man so that women find him sexy? It’s something about privacy. You know, it’s not this kind of sexy like â€œOh, it’s a Chippendale.â€ It’s about the little things. It’s the touch of the fabric. It’s subtle details that you feel. That’s why I wanted to do menswear. And I thought menswear would be just a business. It’s as emotional as womenswear. Even more, because men are shy creatures, and they’re really proud. You have to allow them to learn their own rhythm and for them to absorb it like if it was natural and from thereafter you create a step forward, which with women it’s totally the opposite. Women are willing to change everything in six months. With the men, you have to be more gentle. That’s why my creativity when doing this work would be based more on these emotions then about the outfit by itself.
SCS: I know you’ve just started with menswear, but do you see yourself using the two lines to complement each other, or are they two separate ventures entirely?
RM: They exist for the moment, on the extreme, as separates. They exist as designer menswear and designer womenswear, but I hope that with time a new hybrid line will appear which is like knitwear, t-shirts, shirts. You know, this kind of lifestyle product that, you share it, or it’s something that you buy at the same time. When you buy something for yourself you say â€œOh, I’ll get this for me, I’m going to take that for him, because he needs that. It’s this kind of product that becomes something you like to have in your life. It’s something that gets you day by day. It’s a lot of when you go to Gap in a certain way, you will be able to say â€œOkay, I need that for me, I need that for him, I need that for the kids, I need that for my mother â€¦ â€œ
SCS: You get the whole package.
RM: But you do it with a certain emotion. It’s not just a bland product for the sake of a bland product.
SCS: Next year you’re opening your first flagship in London. I know that you’ve just taken back ownership of your name, and you’re designing under your own name. So you’re in the process of a certain sort of re-branding?
RM: I’m in the process of evolving as a young company, establishing what can be a brand in the 21st century. It’s not going to be the image. It’s not going to be about the product. It’s not going to be that easy. What it is, someone of my caliber can create. It’s not about the quantity of a product, it’s about the need of a product, and I think we’ve been living too much for the quantity of the product. At the end of the day if I’m doing bags, I want to be quite focused on the world in which I am making bags.
SCS: I’m interested in all of your multiculturalism, as an individual and a designer. You are a Frenchman who has UK citizenship.You design for an international clientele. How do those all work together â€” specifically with designing for American women and European women?
RM: I left Paris because, I think â€¦ I couldn’t find the reality about what that business was about. If that business was just Paris and the French customer, it was not enough for me. It was not relevant, because French women don’t buy the same thing that American, British, or even Asian girls buy.
To come to London to find the shock of how exciting it was to have my culture facing a cultureâ€¦because France and England, we are so close, it is a round circle. If the world is flat, we are the opposite. That’s the beauty of the two cultures. It’s right there. Self-reflection in the mirror. You’re driving on the wrong side. Everything is on the opposite side, but there is something that makes me feel more French in England than French in France. And I love to be French there; I love to bring the best of my culture in England. When I had to move to New York to start a show, it was because my company was growing to a certain level that it had to grow in quantity. If you grow just in quantity without knowing that, that’s where your big problem is. You start to copy everybody, and it’s just nothing.
I had to have more experience in my life to understand that my company needed to be fed. And I went to London and New York â€¦ The first mistake of French guy living in New York is believing that women live on the streets like in London. In London, a woman will walk from her house to big stores in her trainers. In New York, they don’t. They go from an air conditioned place to another air conditioned place and they go in a car. In a car with an air conditioner. That’s why American women can wear fur in summer. I learned the grooming of an American woman, the lifestyle of an American woman â€¦ It’s not just â€œSex and the City.â€ It’s a different layer of society to start to learn. And that was amazing, because I started to have this fresh culture of British cities, and American experience. And it was like â€œWow! Different layers.â€ That’s why I travel … I went to China, I went to Russia, I come [to America] quite often. I need to meet the customer, I need to be fed experience. And the moment I’m fed with experience, I start to enter a collection. You go to New York, when you know the kind of dress you need for a bar mitzvah, you need long sleeves. That’s when it becomes really important to make a dress with long sleeves, but not boring sleeves. Around that, you start to become creative, and I think that’s the beauty of our time. We are gypsies of the world, but we still have to keep what we are about.
SCS: So what’s your opinion of American culture?
RM: I think American women … you have the attitude that if you want it, it’s possible. The way your culture is, you can start from nowhere, and everything’s possible. The French are completely different. But that’s what I like about America. You will meet women that talk about what they like to wear, and then you say, â€œbut you should try that.â€ And they say, â€œWell yes, why not!â€ And that’s quite exciting, that’s quite interesting.