Stéphane Rolland’s totem dresses celebrate Brazil’s gold in Paris
Welcome to Rio de Janeiro. The sun is rising over iconic Ipanema Bay, while the air vibrates with wild bossa nova rhythms. A string of vaporous dresses follows silhouettes richly adorned with gold. On Tuesday January 24, French couturier Stéphane Rolland presented his Spring/Summer 2023 haute couture collection at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, delivering his vision of an exalted, fantastical Brazil. The show teemed with pre-Columbian symbolism and glittered with Conquistadores gold.
It was a full immersion in an Amazonian atmosphere. First out was an immaculate poncho, like an iridescent veil with a sculpture on the left shoulder, accompanied by Antonio Carlos Jobìm’s guitar melodies. In its wake, a series of ‘column’ dresses and various sheath dresses, some of them asymmetrical, in crepe and white silk gazar, the creation dotted with gems and enhanced by oversize golden bracelets. With their ebony cuffs and giant rings, the models clad in these totem dresses appear deified.
“I’ve wanted to dedicate a show to Brazil for a long time,” said Rolland, who lived in the South American country during his adolescence. “I love the country, I admire the style Brazilians have, and how they find pleasure in daily life. With trapezoidal silhouettes and embossed patterns, I wanted to showcase the architectural heritage of Rio and Brasilia,” said Rolland, who drew his inspiration from the rounded, ample proportions favoured by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Rolland has designed dresses and jumpsuits with bold volumes, his signature indulgence, liberally introducing hoods that extend skywards and disproportionate shoulders, and transforming a coffee-coloured jumpsuit into a slender butterfly fluttering on the runway.
Gems and gold galore
The piano music seemed to hang in the air and time stretched, like the elongated earrings in the shape of a comma. A draped emerald poncho emerged, its shimmering fabric almost sheer and its vertiginous neckline decorated with malachite, in a hypnotic green colour. It was followed by a hooded dress in gold lamé crepe embroidered with amethysts, the cape swaying on the runway.
“Oh Lord, you who are heaven and earth, who are life and death. You are the sun, the moon and the wind too.” The warm voice of Brazilian singer Maria Bethania, reciting a prayer by poet Fernando de Pessoa, accompanied an impressive pyramidal outfit.
Like the Black Virgin of Aparecida - the patron saint of Brazil - a bride was outfitted in a generously cut cape in crinkled gold lamé gazar, decorated all over with Marajoara motifs. These symbols pay tribute to the pre-Columbian civilization that used to live along the Amazon River.
“We used a huge amount of gold leaf for this last dress,” said Rolland. “All the elements were lacquered and then laminated with gold by interior designer Fabien Barbera. The sculpted elements are made of a special alloy. The difficulty lay in creating a dress that seems huge, thick and heavy, but is instead extremely light to wear,” he added.
Rolland’s guests and his international clientèle, mainly from Asia and the Middle East, watched entranced, as the couturier shone on the second day of Paris Haute Couture Week. The show was split into three acts, as Rolland recreated the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a contemporary interpretation, with a nod to Orfeu Negro, the film by French director Marcel Camus portraying 1950s Brazil.
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