PARIS — Charles de Vilmorin’s vision for Rochas is coming into focus.
After posting a deliberately blurry teaser film in June for his cruise 2022 collection, technically his first for the storied French fashion house, the 24-year-old designer is gearing up for his catwalk debut during Paris Fashion Week with a physical show on Sept. 29 at 1 p.m.
His spring 2022 line carries all the signatures he has established in the brief period between launching his fashion label in April 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and being named creative director of Rochas less than a year later.
His swirly, fantastical drawings are all over the collection. They include oversize prints in vivid primary colors; twisted figures embroidered in black on a white cotton organza shirt, and worked in devoré on a gold lamé tunic, and a psychedelic floral motif on a mesh top.
“The fabric research has been pretty intense,” de Vilmorin said during a casting session, as stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington fitted prospective models.
The collection was loosely inspired by the idea of an ancestral house — hence the drawings of chateau-style furniture on one of the dresses. It will be shown at the ornate 19th-century town house formerly owned by American philanthropist Mona von Bismarck.
“I wanted to convey the idea of a family home, something quite intimate and reassuring, with a Parisian sense of elegance,” he said. Except, he explained, at one point the house catches fire. “The Rochas universe is more sophisticated and feminine. We tried to bring in a touch of techno, a manga spirit. I’m giving it my own spin.”
Cue a little black leather pinafore dress; an orange-and-gold metallic dress framed by a sculptural ruffle, and clompy platform shoes and boots, inspired by Tim Burton’s movies.
Founded by Marcel Rochas in 1925, Rochas has seen its fashion activities shuttered and revived several times in recent years, with successive owners appointing Olivier Theyskens, Marco Zanini and, more recently, Alessandro Dell’ Acqua at the creative helm.
Since taking on the post in February, de Vilmorin has been splitting his time between Paris and Bergamo, the home of HIM Co SpA — High Italian Manufacturing, the company previously known as Onward Luxury Group, which holds the license for women’s ready-to-wear at the label, owned by Interparfums SA.
“With Rochas, I’ve discovered what it’s like to work with a team and with people who are specialized in different areas of the collection,” said de Vilmorin, who runs his own label with just one other person. “It really allows you to take your ideas further.”
It’s also made him rethink what comes next for his eponymous brand, which was one of the nine finalists selected for this year’s edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, and last week launched as part of Gucci’s new online concept store Vault.
“I think I’m going to slow down a little. I’ve been focusing on couture, which I adore, but it requires a lot of time and investment, and it’s mainly for image purposes, so in the end, it doesn’t really help me develop my brand,” he mused.
De Vilmorin didn’t have time to dwell on leaving the LVMH Prize ceremony empty-handed: he was on a plane to Italy the same day. “The jury was really amazing. They were incredibly human — they all had such warm, encouraging words,” he said. “Of course, I would have liked to win, but it was really a great experience.”
If the last 18 months have been a whirlwind for the designer, he wouldn’t have it any other way. Asked to sum up the period, he said: “Challenge. It’s been nothing but one challenge after another — things to do, to tackle and achieve. Having said that, it’s my favorite word, so I can’t complain. If my whole life could be like this, that would be amazing.”