Saturday, July 16, 2011

Roland Mouret And Robert Clergerie On The Future Of Shoes

Well, the fashion deck keeps reshuffling itself. This week, as we continued waiting for word on who will be taking the reins at Dior, two surprise—and surprising—announcements came from fashion’s headquarters over in Paris. First, it was revealed that Opening Ceremony founders and local kids-made-good Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are setting up shop at Kenzo (fueling speculation that the outgoing Kenzo designer Antonio Marras might be, yes, taking over Dior). Second, news broke that, as Robert Clergerie hands over his namesake footwear brand to Fung Brands Ltd., Roland Mouret would be coming on board as creative director. (Ending speculation that Mouret would be, well, taking over Dior.) Never a dull moment! Here, Robert Clergerie and Roland Mouret talk to about Mouret’s future in shoes.

This registered as a rather surprising appointment, given that Roland Mouret isn’t, as far as I’ve known, a shoe designer. How did it all come about?
Robert Clergerie: Well, I’ve known Roland for a long time—perhaps 20, 25 years now. A long time ago, he worked for us, doing the artistic direction of our advertising. Then we lost touch, and years later, I read in the press that he was a successful designer, and I looked at what he was doing, and I thought he was very good. And when we began the conversations with Fung, and as the sale was going through, I was thinking, 
We should speak to Roland.
Was there something you saw in his clothes that you felt lined up with the aesthetic of Clergerie?
RC: I think his clothes are very much on the same wavelength as Clergerie. There’s not a big interest in tricks or ornament. 
Roland, do you agree with that?
Roland Mouret: Yes. I learned a lot from Robert when I was working for him. I wasn’t a designer, but I saw how focused he was on purity of line, on simplicity. There was always a sense of balance. You know, when I worked for him it was in the eighties, at a time when it was very, very trendy to wear Clergerie. But he never became a victim of his own trendiness.
What do you see as the legacy of Clergerie?
RM: Robert Clergerie is a strong shoe. There’s an architectural quality, and though the shoes are feminine, they aren’t girly. It’s about a solid 1940’s silhouette—a wedge, a platform. And they’re comfortable. That is really a signature of Robert Clergerie, comfort. Robert has always been really adamant about that, that his shoes are comfortable.
What’s your vision for the brand, going forward?
RM: Well, this isn’t a case of, you know, having to destroy and rebuild. I want to carry what he’s been doing forward. I think the key is, to take the signature elements, the comfort in particular, and position them for the red carpet and for editorial. Red-carpet shoes may be beautiful, but they aren’t usually comfortable. I’m sure there are a lot of women who would be happy to have that option.
For the past year or so, Robert Clergerie has been collaborating on a line with Opening Ceremony. Are you open to more collaborations of that kind? 
RM: Well, it’s early days for my relationship with Robert Clergerie, so I don’t want to commit to anything right away. But in general, yes, absolutely. I’m based in London, which is a city of young designers, and I’m very aware of the importance of supporting talent when it’s new. I had that support from Christian Louboutin, and it was essential. 
What does all this mean for your own line, Roland? 
RM: I’ll continue with my own line, and with Clergerie. 

And what about you, Mr. Clergerie? Are you still going to be involved with the brand going forward?
RC: I’ve been asked to participate with the collections for a time, and collaborate with Roland, which I appreciate. I don’t know for how long, we’ll see.
Last question: Do any of these changes, i.e., the sale of Robert Clergerie, the appointment of Roland Mouret as creative director, mean changes for the way Clergerie is produced? The factory in France is an important symbol of Clergerie.
RM: We must continue to have the factory. Robert Clergerie, it’s part of the price of the shoes—part of the investment—knowing that they were made in France. I think we’ll be looking at collaborating with factories in Italy and other places, but you can’t take Robert Clergerie out of France. The whole attitude is French—you see in the shoes, this mentality of the artists who go to the South of France in the summertime.
Mr. Clergerie, do you have any words of advice for Roland, going forward? 
RC: Hmm. No, not really. Of course we’re talking all the time anyway, so… I’ll just say that I’m very happy. And I won’t say any more, because otherwise Roland will get a big head.

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