Charles de Vilmorin, <br>Drawing as a Language

Charles de Vilmorin,
Drawing as a Language

For some people, words have never been able to translate what is bubbling away in their inner world. This is undeniably the case for Charles de Vilmorin, who confided that he found in the pencil a much more faithful way of sketching his thoughts. “I drew before I could even write,” the artistic director of Rochas, who also heads his own eponymous brand, told us! Spontaneous and instinctive, his sketches naturally became his profession. Drawing his inspiration from the surrealist works of Man Ray and Salvador Dali and the dreamlike paintings of Odilon Redon, Marc Chagall and James Ensor, the Parisian now creates poetic collections in which he frees himself from the notion of gender. Especially for his own label, where his androgynous silhouettes, “assertive and voluminous”, awaken in him the inner child who is passionate about theatre. A taste for narration and total art that inspires him to the point of imbuing the walls of his own apartment with it! An amazing fresco in explosive colours is an unusual feature in his Haussmann-style living room. Taking up the themes of his first fashion show, his talent infuses the emotions that run through him with gouache and acrylic. Because this young man lets his sensitivity guide his work as much as it does his interior. Here, Venetian mirrors, armchairs from the 1970s, and even a chandelier with crystal drops show a clever mix of eras and genres. Picked up randomly second-hand when they have not been inherited from a parent – like a canvas painted by his mother – the objects the prodigy has in his home demonstrate his indifference to the prevailing consumerism. This is yet another demonstration of the free spirit of this creative artist, the figurehead of this new and environmentally committed generation!

Salon avec canapé orange Charles de Vilmorin
Fauteuil blanc chez Charles de Vilmorin
Module chez Charles de Vilmorin

Charles, can you introduce yourself?

Charles

I’m Charles de Vilmorin, I’ve been artistic director of Rochas for a year and founded my own self-named couture brand two years ago. A Parisian at heart, I now split my time between my home city and Milan, but enjoy spending time in other buzzing metropolitan hubs. I’ve always been passionate about art in general, hence my artistic and theatrical approach to fashion. I’m largely inspired by music, cinema, and the flamboyant fashion of the 1980s. I’m a very solitary person but enjoy spending time with family and friends who boost my creative energy daily.

Tell us about your upbringing. What sort of environment did you grow up in, and which consequently developed your taste? 

Charles

I was lucky enough to grow up in an art-loving family that appreciated creativity. When I was young, I wanted to be a theatre director. I was fascinated by the beauty of combining light, music, decor, costumes and characters in a collective work. My love of fashion became clearer as I grew up, and I realised that it was quite possible to combine all these elements and tell stories through collections. My family and loved ones have always motivated me and supported my projects. They infused me with their love of beautiful artistic culture and from a young age encouraged my curiosity by taking me to museums/exhibitions. They also taught me to appreciate all art movements and forms and to be open to different insights and tastes. An open-minded attitude, in my opinion, sharpens our critical thinking throughout our lives.

Where does your love of drawing come from? 

Charles

I’ve always drawn, starting before I could write. It’s my main form of self-expression. Whether narrative illustrations or fashion sketches, my drawings are very spontaneous and evolve with my experiences over the years. My mother, like many other family members, draws and paints. She’s the one who taught me the basics without imposing any conventional “training”. I’m inspired by artists such as Tim Burton, Dali, Picasso with his sketches, Man Ray, Matisse… I like surrealist works that distort proportions. I’m attracted to strange or disturbing universes when they are revived with colourful poetry. Even though drawing became my job, I still enjoy it just as much.

Étagères noires chez Charles de Vilmorin
Chaise noire chez Charles de Vilmorin
Abat-jour bleu chez Charles de Vilmorin
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Designers, artists: whose work has influenced you, your work? 

Charles

The designers who have influenced and still influence my work are John Galliano, Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen, and Jean-Paul Gaultier for their narrative and literal vision, as well as the stories they tell through their increasingly theatrical shows. I also love more graphic, conceptual and poetic fashion such as that of Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Charles Castelbajac and Christian Lacroix. Today, I admire the work of Marc Jacobs, Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne and Nicolas Ghesquière at Vuitton as well as work by designers from my generation such as Alphonse Maitrepierre or Ludovic de Saint Sernin. Paintings also resonate with me, especially the dreamy worlds of Odilon Redon, Marc Chagall and James Ensor.

How would you define your signature style as a fashion designer?

Charles

It’s hard to be objective, but I would define myself as a creator with a poetic, narrative and playful approach. I think I know how to control colours enough to bring out emotion. I have a theatrical and dramatic vision, and I like to sketch confident voluminous silhouettes.

You’re the artistic director of Rochas and your own label. How do you balance these two positions and their distinct identities on a daily basis?

Charles

As you so rightly put it, they have very distinct identities, two different stories, but are nonetheless equally important. The Rochas woman is very Parisian – sophisticated, artistic, quirky, elegant, while for my brand I envision women who are more extreme and dramatic. I try to bring maximum poetry to both roles even if the expectations and objectives differ. Working in Italy for Rochas allows my mind to separate the two brands and their complexity.

Table chez Charles de Vilmorin
Dessin Charles de Vilmorin
Livres chez Charles de Vilmorin
Chambre à coucher chez Charles de Vilmorin
Lit chez Charles de Vilmorin
Alcove chez Charles de Vilmorin

Who are your creations for? 

Charles

Whether for Rochas or my brand, I have a fairly precise vision of the notion of gender. Through my work, I fight for a change of mentality on this subject so that everyone feels good and flourishes in the body of their choice. To this end, I naturally and spontaneously create clothes for everyone without imposing gender stereotypes. My brand’s silhouettes are unisex and can be worn and enjoyed by anyone who wants to. Regarding Rochas, the collections are precisely timed to match the fashion seasons. Nevertheless, fashion is evolving, to offer more than just the fashion weeks and make collections more inclusive. I wholeheartedly support this change, and I’m trying to participate at my own level.

You surrounded yourself with personalities who are your peers for your brand’s first capsule collection. Why was this important to you? 

Charles

It’s important that both within my brand and at Rochas, I’m surrounded by friends who have been involved in my projects, and this has always been the case. Whether we’re talking about the models, the make-up artists, musicians, etc. I enjoy working with them, and it adds an emotional force to my projects. They inspire me every day. Our generation is free, committed, liberated, upholds strong values and is involved in important societal struggles. I am very happy to evolve within it, I believe in it and in its ability to build a more beautiful world.

Red, yellow, and blue: primary colours feature strongly in your world. Can you explain this preference?

Charles

Colours are vital to me. I enjoy the emotions they evoke and their symbolism. I love having fun with them to produce surprising combinations. It’s fundamental to me to convey accurate and clear messages and primary colours do just that. That’s why they affect me so much.

How do you use them in your apartment’s decor?

Charles

My apartment’s decor is a spontaneous blend of things I fell in love with from decor shops as much as car boot sales or flea markets. The colours attract me and make me feel good. Living amid all these nuances soothes me. The fresco was created in one night. It features motifs from my first Rochas catwalk show, so there’s a sentimental side to it. I wanted to create a trompe l’œil for continuity in the room with a piano, an armchair, a piece of furniture and plants, all part of my DNA. It’s painted using a mixture of gouache and acrylic.

Coussin chez Charles de Vilmorin
Autruche lampe chez Charles de Vilmorin
Éventail chez Charles de Vilmorin

Colours are vital to me. I enjoy the emotions they evoke and their symbolism.

Fenêtre chez Charles de Vilmorin
Salle de bain verte chez Charles de Vilmorin
Vases chez Charles de Vilmorin

How did you design its scenography?

Charles

Again, everything was done in a very natural way, without thinking too much. This apartment is a medley of vastly different elements. I didn’t want to stick with a particular style, on the contrary, I like it whe different movements and epochs blend, like the combination of a Venetian mirror with 70s furniture and armchairs, 1980s chairs and a pendant chandelier. I also like to alter the decor by moving or replacing elements. It’s an apartment that lives and changes. I’m not a very orderly person, and I don’t like it when things are too precise.

Do you have a piece that you particularly cherish? 

Charles

Without a doubt, a painting by my mother, which she gave me when I moved into this apartment. I am not very materialistic, and my possessions have more of a sentimental value.

What does your artistic side tell us about your personality?

Charles

The fact that everything in my apartment has been chosen on a whim shows the extremely spontaneous side to my personality. I don’t like to plan too much and need a certain freedom.

Where will we find you in the coming months?

Charles

In the park opposite as I’ll be getting a little dog soon!

Peinture chez Charles de Vilmorin
Lampe globe chez Charles de Vilmorin
Affiche chez Charles de Vilmorin

I didn't want to stick with a particular style, on the contrary, I like it whe different movements and epochs blend (...)

Croquis Charles de Vilmorin
Bureau Charles de Vilmorin

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