“Loong” – From a Shoe to a João Rôlo Dress
The cliché line “The way you make me feel” has become more than just words uttered by a lover or sung by an artist. It is the only way I know how to express the emotions brought out in me when simple things such as gold thread, black lace, and passion come together to create an object of desire.
Centuries of Chinese mythology have guided me in moments of weakness and strength. It is the multiple interpretations of the loong, the legendary Chinese dragon, I turn to for reflection and inspiration. The power and imperial strength it represents make it my muse.
My muse has gone from a mystical creature on a treasured pair of Giuseppe Zanotti shoes to my very own loong, a fierce dragon meticulously embroidered in metallic gold thread outlining my every curve. Luxurious black lace intricately cut and meticulously placed in all the right places. My body covered in Silk Road with meters of duchess silk ruched while leading the eye to elegant pagodalike sleeves. And somewhere between this piece of wearable art and performance art lies the dramatic, mysterious, and inspiring fantasy world of João Rôlo’s haute couture fashion.
By definition, haute couture—French for “high sewing”—is the creation of exclusive custom-fit clothing which is meticulously crafted by the industry’s most skilled artisans. I have had the honor to walk through João Rôlo’s atelier as a woman who longs to be heard, understood, and respected for who I am and what I believe in. For me it wasn’t just another dress, it was the dress. It was a celebration of Janet the woman.
It all began with a soft doorbell chime in a noble Lisbon building, a delicate petite seamstress greets me and guides me to a tuille-filled powder pink heaven. As I walk down the main staircase, I realize I am in the middle of a true form of high artistry—an expression of creative skill and imagination.
I anxiously await the Master, sounded by Louis XV cabriole leg furniture, layers of gold leaf, an art collection of multiple human hearts which I later come to find out is João’s collaboration with another deeply emotional artist. The only thing running through my head is the song “Je ne veux pas travailler” by Pink Martini. As I sip my espresso and smoke my 5th imaginary cigarette, a perfectly coiffed gold hair god emerges from a door that leads to the backstage. It is João Rôlo, a timid gentle human with the divine power to transform my devotion to loong into a fantastical sketch.
Within minutes a magical medley of billowing silks, intricate laces, exotic crystal forms, jewel-studded accents came to life in the form of a dress.
I have only surrendered myself to a sketch once in life and the holder of the pen is my husband, could João be my new love? Or was he my other half in the creative world? Never have I been so sure of what I saw, his vision crossed the boundary from garment to art form.
Empowerment filled my body with every moment I was exposed to João and his craft. The sketch to reality was a true moment of intimate luxury. The measurements, the tailoring, the fittings all filled with passion and tailor-made emotion. Every pin, thread, and crystal applied with precision and love of the art.
As a designer, my design briefing was expressive and alluded to the mystic of the Chinese dragon and what it symbolized to me. Giuseppe Zanotti’s dragon embroidered shoes have been my go-to objets of desire for memorable moments in life and they were the shoes of choice for João Rôlo’s creation. With nothing but my embroidered shoes on I smoked 3 more imaginary cigarettes as a true French woman would and waited as my gown was being walked to my suite. And just like that – LOVE HAPPENED.
Empowerment filled my body, João had personally embroidered the dragon on the dress to my heart.
Love does happen in the most unexpected ways, the man, the art, the piece took me from where I was to a new chapter in my life, one of empowerment through design, content, experience, and collaborations, could the art of haute couture be next? Who knows, only loong can tell.