Cottagecore - the Internet aesthetic that celebrates a return to traditional skills and crafts - is right up fashion designer Roland Mouret's country lane. Not in a chintzy, prairie-dress way; rather it's the Suffolk-based designer's sensibility that has us drawing a comparative line. Famous for the now-iconic Galaxy dress, a glamorous and figure-enhancing design known to many as simply "that dress", today Mouret's collections place a strengthened emphasis on easy elegance and simplicity, while continuing to focus on fabric and form.
Born in Lourdes, France, Roland spent his early years in Paris, before establishing his eponymous label in London and later making the move to East Anglia. In rediscovering the verdant countryside, vintage markets and all, it seems the king of structure and draping has gone un peux casual of late. Inspired by an influx in people's interest in crafting over the past months (a side-effect of COVID-19 quarantining and one-too-many sourdough mishaps), Mouret sought to enable clients and coveters of the brand to "wear something new without buying anything" new. An admirable aim, in placing a love of clothing and creative reimaging ahead of sales, Mouret, like others in the industry, is reassessing what fashion is at its core, what dressing might look like in the months ahead and examining ways to produce new designs in the most sustainable manner possible.
Using one of eight online tutorials available to download via Instagram DM, we tried our hand at assembling a bag inspired by the indigo-blue hued Nimes, styled from denim offcuts and called on Mouret for further guidance, fashion insights and a list of must-sees and -dos for our next Framlingham frolic…
Where are you from and how has your background shaped you?
I'm originally from Lourdes in France. I am the son of a butcher, which definitely impacted who I am and shaped my career. Watching my father in the shop, folding his apron to hide stains and only show the clean linen, are some of my earliest memories of working with fabric.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I like to create pieces which bring real dressing solutions to women's lives with easily wearable and modern silhouettes that will never go out of style. I'm known for drape and structure, but I succeed, I think, when the clothes feel comfortable to you, the wearer.
Where is your studio and what does it look like?
I have a small, simple studio at my cottage in Suffolk. In more normal times, I take fabric back with me on a Friday and spend the weekend draping, before returning to London in the week.
Tell us about your latest series of tutorials and how we can access them…
I wanted to show people how to make clothes for themselves using materials like scarves or jewellery, things that are all around us or which can be found at a vintage market, rather than needing to purchase anything new this summer. There will be eight tutorials in all to make simple scarf tops, sarong skirts and fabrics bags which can be requested via direct message on Instagram.
What was the catalyst for creating this online DIY series?
I think quarantine allowed us to think about creativity without producing anything new and I was inspired to see so many people take up new crafts over this time. I've also always been influenced by the Mediterranean woman's style, how they use what's around, like a silk scarf and a necklace, to create an outfit for a drink on the terrazzo. There is magic in that simple attitude.
Each of the pieces profiled takes inspiration from your favourite summer destinations. Tell us more…
Each of the eight designs was inspired by the attitude and colours of some of my favourite places in the South of France and Greece. I think these places really epitomise that relaxed Mediterranean elegance. The Espiguette top is inspired by the beach in the South of France. It is a simple halter-neck scarf top, which was one of the first things my grandmother taught me to make. The Kefi top (after Kefalonia) is inspired by the bright blues of Greece where I've spent many great summers with my dear friend Sophia Neophitou. The Nimes bag I made from a denim offcut I had at home. That dark indigo blue always reminds me of Nimes and the South of France, where I believe denim actually first originated and you still see that colour everywhere today. I always find inspiration in the colours, textures and nature when I travel.
How do you think people's approach to summer dressing - and dressing in general - has changed?
I think, over time, people have realised that holidays are much more about creating memories and there is less of a focus on buying new pieces for summer dressing. There is such an easy elegance which comes from restyling or reusing what you have around you in a new way.
The most impressive place you've ever travelled to in the name of fashion is…
Last year I visited China. I visited the Taijiang region during the Sisters' Festival, an ancient festival similar to Valentine's Day. There were incredible processions with thousands of locals dressed in traditional clothing, music and performances. Part of my love for travelling comes from learning more about traditional cultures and customs.
Some of your favourite places to escape to include…
I've really been enjoying the UK during quarantine; my favourite places are the Norfolk beaches and any beautiful countryside garden to explore.
What makes a good hotel?
A very simple request, but it must have windows you can actually open, unlike a lot of new hotels.
You have a Jack Russell terrier, Dave. What pet-friendly hotels can you recommend?
In Bordeaux, La Course guest house is where I have spent many great holidays.
Where do you consider your home away from home?
My home in Suffolk is a great escape from the city.
What are you reading at the moment?
One of my favourite books recently has been Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson, but right now I'm more into audiobooks. I'm currently enjoying listening to Stephen Fry's Mythos.
What's your take on souvenirs?
I'd always prefer to go to an antiques shop; it's the most sustainable way to collect souvenirs and find unique pieces.
And finally, what's in your SUITCASE?
The bare minimum. The basics I travel with all the time are some Greek linen shirts, two pairs of shorts, my iPad, a towel and sun cream.
Roland Mouret's Pocket Guide to Suffolk
I'd personally pick a cottage or a countryside Airbnb for the best rural experience.
The Watson and Walpole in Framlingham, my neighbourhood Italian.
The Station Hotel in Framlingham.
Visit the antiques shops and markets; my favourite is Dix-Sept Antiques in Framlingham.