Printed abstract flames on gold and metallic black lamé: It’s not a fashion box one would expect to see checked from Rochas, the nearly 100-year-old label known for a more refined and traditional realisation of pret-a-porter. But that’s just what Charles de Vilmorin — Rochas’s new, 24-year-old creative director — has deployed, along with a cascade of oversized frills, painterly tablescape motifs and statement-making block heels. One standout: the ruched mini dress in that aforementioned graphic heat from his debut runway show and second collection for the house (Spring-Summer 2022). Rochas, remixed, has arrived.
De Vilmorin’s own approach conveys ebullient verve. Expressive, illustrated, energised by colour and charisma, and displaying an openness of the world ahead when you’re only in your early 20s; these are de Vilmorin’s codes, which he quickly established after launching his namesake label in April, 2020. His distinctive talent resonates both on and off the catwalk. When he showed during the week of Haute Couture in January this year, with backing from Jean Paul Gaultier, de Vilmorin’s naif butterfly and human body drawings charmed fashion circles. His penchant for a gesture of the hand recalls the visual splash of Nikki de Saint Phalle, even Matisse. In appearance, there is a vague resemblance to a young Saint Laurent.
Until now, the Rochas woman has been very different from the de Vilmorin girl. Yet the designer’s vision involves combining the former’s legacy and the latter’s novelty.
“My first feeling was really about honouring the familial, historical and sensitive energy of Rochas,” de Vilmorin told the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode prior to his runway show. “It is an old brand, and I mean this in a good way. It is classic. I’m tapping into this, and also thinking about the Rochas perfume, Femme, and how someone today might wear it.”
“But,” he continues, “the intent is to make this woman very modern and it’s very important for me to have very fresh energy for this new story. It’s more artistic.”
How exactly does he see himself bridging the gap?
“I draw all the fabric prints. I think this is the red line between my brand and Rochas, the motifs. And so, we can see this is ‘my’ touch, but in a different amount, a different volume.”
Fuelled by those lovely lamé flames, de Vilmorin concludes: “The goal is to get Rochas to a state where it’s this amazing dream universe.” He’s well on his way.