Roland Mouret’s Middle Eastern Venture

BY Harper's Bazaar Arabia / Nov 8 2015 / 20:04 PM

Maddison Glendinning speaks to the French designer before his big move to The Dubai Mall

Roland Mouret’s Middle Eastern Venture
Roland Mouret’s Middle Eastern Venture
Jason Lloyd-Evans
Roland Mouret poses backstage with models after his A/W15 presentation

Few designers are as charming as 54-year-old French designer Roland Mouret. Equal parts suave and self-effacing, he’s responsible for one of the most iconic designs in fashion history – the Galaxy dress – which changed the way women looked at clothing, and themselves. By the end of this month, Roland Mouret’s first Dubai flagship store will be open in Fashion Avenue, The Dubai Mall, and his iconic Signature collection will be available in the city for the first time. “I think with the evolution of my work up to now, in the 10 years that I’ve spent building my brand, Dubai was one of the key places to open a store,” he tells Bazaar. “It’s the perfect place to open my first store in the region.”

The store was designed by London-based architect Rossa Prendergast and will be home to the designer’s ready-to-wear, footwear and accessory collections. What is he most excited about for his Middle Eastern customer to discover in-store? “I think what is exciting is for them to have a bigger vision of what I produce and what I do. I’m very well known for the fitted dress but there is a full range of clothing that I’m doing that’s also quite successful. And it’s so nice to show your own collection in your own store with your own atmosphere.”

“It’s amazing how the women in the GCC are really spot on in how they dress"

Roland has visited Dubai in the past, and has high praise for the region’s style code. “It’s amazing how the women in the GCC are really spot on in how they dress. The Middle Eastern woman is a key player in the world of fashion; designers have to consider them when designing their collections.” He’s similarly complimentary of the design talent emerging from the region. When asked if there are any particular designers on his radar, he answers without hesitation, saying, “Noon by Noor. It effortlessly crosses over between the East and the West. It’s an amazing young brand. Faiza Bouguessa is another one. I think it’s brilliant the way she approaches design and I was really impressed by her work.”

On his favourite memories of his time here, he shares, “I did this really fantastic helicopter flight on my last visit from Burj Al Arab all around Dubai. I also really enjoyed visiting d3. I met a lot of students and artists there and it was a side of Dubai I had never seen. It was really interesting for me to see the next generation of young people expressing their views through fashion and art.” His work with the Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC) also opened his eyes to the new Dubai. “The DDFC has done incredibly well to build a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Dr Amina Al Rustamani in particular; her point of view and what she fights for to create that communication is brilliant. Also my good friend Nez [Gebreel, the CEO of DDFC] has a really clever perspective on fashion. She really understands both markets; she has such a great knowledge and will do amazing things for Dubai’s fashion community.”

"I think what makes a woman stylish and confident is for her to forget about her shape and size and really embrace that she is a woman"

He’s a man who knows how to dress women, counting Blake Lively, the Duchess of Cambridge, Victoria Beckham and Naomi Watts among his fans, and the power of clothing is not something he takes lightly. “My work as a designer is to deliver a service through my clothes, and this service that I try to deliver to the best of my knowledge through my clothing is to not judge based on size. I design for every woman and I never have just one body shape in mind. Not every woman is a size 6 like the models who are 14 and 15 years old on the catwalk. You have to make clothes for women, not just for models.” He adds, “I think what makes a woman stylish and confident is for her to forget about her shape and size and really embrace that she is a woman. It’s so exciting for me to see women like that in my dresses.”

Trends, he says, are not his starting point for a collection, rather what the Roland Mouret woman will need next. “I’m always thinking about what my customer doesn’t have and what she will want next season and the way that she will move on with her life. It’s never about a trend for the sake of a trend. It’s about thinking about my customer all the time and bringing her to the next stage. It’s about growing with her.”

He’s heavily into colour and its ability to alter moods and mindsets. “I’m a big believer in colour therapy,” he tells us. “I think colour is something that is so important in our life. It completely changes your mind. Even if you don’t wear colour, just to see something bright hanging in your wardrobe in the morning gives you a pep of happiness. Colour gives you pleasure; it’s quite fantastic.”

In addition to colour, his other secret weapon is a fabric called power mesh. “It’s like a bit of rubber for your body,” Roland begins to explain. “I used in the Galaxy and some of my other iconic dresses. It helps to make things you don’t like, disappear, and emphasise things you do like. It’s stretchy but it gives support without making you feel restricted. It gives you lift and a more refined silhouette. And because it’s lined within the dress, it’s not an ugly thing you have to take off afterwards where you think ‘what have I don’t to the world to feel so unpleasant?!” I try to make it in a more sensual way. It’s a miracle I can control,” he says with a hearty laugh.

What, we ask, is a woman’s most attractive quality in his eyes? “Movement,” he answers instantly. “I think that is what is beautiful about a woman. The parts of the body I love the most are the ankle and wrist because they are what gives the body movement. I think you fall in love with someone because of the way they move, because it’s all about the way they take you into their world.” It’s clear he’s a romantic. When we ask what he loves most about designing for women, his answer takes us somewhat by surprise. “What I love most about designing for women is that it constantly allows me to question the relationship between men and women because, from my point of view, what I’m doing is creating tools for a relationship because I believe clothes are a way to express yourself. I think it’s amazing when your partner can discover a side of you he doesn’t expect through clothes and fashion and that’s great. I love the concept of a long-term relationship and I think you have to use everything you have between your hands to make it work.”

Despite all of his successes, and there have been many, he’s genuinely humbled by the support he’s received over the years. “To have been in this business for 10 years, and still exist today and still be growing...” he pauses, before thoughtfully adding, “My customers are my biggest career highlight.”