Rochas – just like any historical maison that lacked a firm and precise creative direction for decades – is a tough nut to crack in 2021. Marco Zanini’s years were promising (and very chic), but didn’t work commercially. Alessandro Dell’AcQua’s tenure brought a bunch of lady-like dresses, but pretty much no press acknowledgement. In despair, young blood was hired, and we’ve got the debut collection by Charles De Vilmorin – a 24 year-old designer who in fact presented just two collections to date at his name-sake, couture label. Read: a risky step for Rochas. In all honesty, De Vilmorin’s spring-summer 2022 line-up is rather a miss. Perhaps hinting at the trial-by-fire aspect of his first runway show, De Vilmorin started with a group of looks whose palette and dark shimmer seemed informed by burning flames. There were short and long plissé lamé dresses in shades of red and black and a knee-length red-and-orange number whose arms were traced by a wide band of winglike ruffles. The second grouping was devoted to his drawings, which looked whimsical and distinctive on their gowns-as-canvases, though curiously quite close in both color and style to the printed pieces De Vilmorin did for his own couture debut in January. In the show’s third section, he explored deconstruction: slicing shirtdresses at the shoulders, using drawstrings to create asymmetric volumes in skirts, and twisting and draping a long piece of fabric into a bandeau. In overall, I see chaos. Asked how it feels to inherit a heritage label, Charles said, “It’s magical for me and a big, big challenge. I hope to tell a beautiful story.” For now, the story is hard to read, as there’s hardly any trace of the new Rochas that would finally appeal to a contemporary client, and a barely heard narrative coming from a very young designer who still has to shape his own voice.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.