Wednesday 21 July 2021

French Couturier Stéphane Rolland's Sea Change

Spanish star Nieves Álvarez in the film of Stéphane Rolland's new haute couture collection (see below), looking like Meryl Streep, dressed in a hooded gown,staring out across stormy waters in the French Lieutenant's Woman.

Most designers on the Paris haute couture schedule, eschewed live runway shows due to the pandemic and chose to present their new work online. French couturier
Stéphane Rolland showed his dramatic Autumn/Winter 202/22 haute couture collection in an atmospheric film, shot on the wild shores of the Basque country of south-west France, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Standing on a high,
stony sea wall, with a gold brocade 
train billowing in the wind
FILMED at dawn with the first light glinting across rolling waves crashing on the shores of  Pays Basque beaches, French couturier Stéphane Rolland 's new haute couture collection looked inspired by this wild sea and rocky coast. 

Directed by Toma Jablon, the film features Mr Rolland's model and muse Nieves Álvarez as she walks atop the sea walls in Hendaye, Biarritz and Bidart. The stone walls formed natural runways with the spectacular backdrop of a swirling sea.

"I chose to film in the amazing Pays Basque because of its authenticity and because the nature is absolutely outstanding," explains Stéphane  Rolland in lilting, lightly-accented English. "And I saw that the stone walls on the sea are the best catwalks ever." 

The new collection, called Water and Stone, was instigated by the dramatic coast and drew on the work of avant-garde mosaic artist Béatrice Serre. The Parisian artist uses natural materials to create spacey installations and giant comet-like wall sculptures, often encasing a mirror at the heart of the work. She uses rock crystal, pyrite, lapis lazuli, opal and even meteorite. Mr Rolland was particularly stirred by the artist's use of these ancient minerals and palette of stony, earthy hues.

"This collection is less black and white than before," says Rolland. "Deep yellow with gold are the main hues of the collection. And there is also deep-red and pure-white. I wanted to emphasize through those colours the softer tones of the beach and the rocks. The red and yellow make a break, and visually-speaking they were more interesting." 

"I chose to film in the amazing Pays Basque because of its authenticity. The stone walls on the sea are the best catwalks ever." 

Nieves Alvarez wears a sweater dress 
of white crepe with Carrara 
marble detailing and a train 
in transparent organza.
For the Autumn/Winter 2021/2022 season, the designer created couture looks and a collection of kaftans and djellabas for both women and men. The haute couture looks have Stéphane Rolland's signature combination of minimalism and volume with striking contemporary embroidery and singular jewellery. 

Trapeze shaped gowns are mixed with long, lean tunic dresses and gilets, fluid trains and sculptural crinoline skirts. Marble, stone and crystal mosaics are used to decorate bustiers, necklines and sleeves.

Nieves Álvarez opens the film of the collection, appearing in a long white gown on a craggy outcrop, silhouetted against a wide expanse of blue sea (see at right). The long, sweater dress is made of white crepe with Carrara marble detailing. The train in transparent organza looks like the frothy foam of the sea. 

Spanish model and television presenter, 47-year-old Nieves Álvarez, looks lithe and intense and Stéphane Rolland says her presence animates his work: "Nieves is the queen of my collection and there is a reason for that," says the couturier. "It is much more than a collaboration, it is more of a union. Each time we do something we grow together and I love that. She is really the reflection of my expression, she has this grace I can't find anywhere else."

The model is shown in the film dramatically flinging a creamy, satin poncho into the wind, as waves crash onto the rocks around her. The giant poncho is paired with embroidered yellow wool jersey trousers and eye-catching, geometric jewellery that looks like polished stones, shells or glass from the

The haute couture looks have Stéphane Rolland's signature mix of minimalism and volume with striking contemporary embroidery and singular jewellery 

A wonderfully draped smock dress
 in buttercup yellow, studded with
 crystal and mother-of-pearl
Another highlight from the new collection, is a wonderfully draped smock dress in buttercup yellow ~ a foil to the simplicity of the sea wall and flat stretch of water (see at left).

The brilliantly-hued satin is embroidered with Bakelite and porcelain cabochons around the neck and voluminous sleeves and worn with long white gloves. Nieves Alvarez looks like a Renaissance queen surveying her lands. 

In another scene from the film, the model wears a silk crepe gown as she walks along a high, curving sea wall. Slender and clinging, it has an open back and an evocative white embroidered hood. As she crosses back along the wall, the floating train, drapes over the stone walkway. This time the model appears as an Egyptian princess and wears one large, minimalist ring in gold. 

Walking up steps to the top of the sea wall, Nieves Alvarez is encased in a long, regal tunic in golden brocade embroidered with marble, amber and citrine mosaics. As with all of the designs, the gown drapes beautifully and looks equally good from the front as the back. 

A highlight from the new collection is a wonderfully draped smock dress in buttercup yellow ~ a foil to the sandy hues of the sea wall and the pale-blue stretch of water

 Spectacular malachite earrings
in rich greens and black 
that pick up the colours 
of the mosaics 

In another scene, a drone flies over the model walking atop a slim, high wall wearing a gilet in a metallic golden knit with a mosaic embroidery of marble, jade and malachite. The wind catches the fabric, billowing it out behind her, showing a jumpsuit in white crepe underneath. 

As she stands on the high end of the walkway, we see  a close up of the details, including the spectacular malachite earrings in rich greens and black that pick up the colours of the embroidery. 

Another notable image from the film shows Nieves Alvarez dressed in a red jersey and white satin ball gown with a huge crinoline skirt. She stands on top of the concrete and stone walls, and we see a close-up of the red keyhole bustier encrusted with white bakelite and diamantes. Completing the look, is another stylish and modern piece of jewellery, this time a white, smooth ring like a pebble. 

One of the most arresting scenes is seeing Ms Alvarez in a red, hooded satin cloak walking on golden sand as the tide washes ashore (see main picture). It recalls Meryl Streep dressed in a similarly hooded gown, staring out across the stormy waters at the end of the Cobb in Lyme Regis, in one of the most unforgettable scenes from the film of the French Lieutenant's Woman, based on the novel by John Fowles. Stéphane Rolland's gown is brought into the present day, by a red bustier embroidered with a mosaic of crystals, red coral and marble with a jagged seashore-like edge and worn with flat, geometric earrings, the colour of bronze. 

One of the most arresting scenes is Nieves Alvarez  in a long red, hooded satin cloak, pictured against golden sand as the tide washes ashore

Nieves Alvarez is silhouetted 
against a sunset of pinks and blues,
the black organza forming dark fins,
 like a mermaid or sea creature
washed up on the shore.
The final look of the collection is an evocative ball gown in black silk faille with a train of organza and a bustier studded with Carrara marble and white bakelite. 

In the last scenes of the film, Nieves Alvarez is silhouetted on a low boardwalk at sundown against a sunset of pinks and blues, the black organza forming dark fins (see at left). She looks like a mermaid or sea creature washed up on the shore. 

Stéphane Rolland began his career at the storied house of Balenciaga in Paris, designed costumes for film and became the artistic director of the historic Jean-Louis Scherrer maison. 

But his eponymous couture house, founded in 2007, has allowed him to dress women from Lady Gaga to Beyonce. Most recently he has also designed for television, creating a shapely couture gown for Lily Collins' lead character in Netflix's much-watched Emily In Paris series. 

Click image below to watch the short film of Stéphane Rolland's AW21/22 haute couture collection shot in France's Pays Basque featuting Nieves Alvarez and directed by Toma Jablon.

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