About the first thing that Roland Mouret discovered during a recent trip to Houston — his first — was how busy the Neiman Marcus makeup department was so early in the morning.
"I felt like I was arriving in New York. It's real nice because when I went to Miami, the customer didn't arrive until the beginning of the afternoon," he said, in a dreamy French accent. "It looks here like you have quite a diehard customer that wakes up early."
Lately, the 51-year-old Paris-based designer has been a busy man. In addition to his women's ready-to-wear collection, he designs a limited edition collection for Neiman Marcus and a shoe line for the luxury footwear brand Robert Clergerie.
"It looks here like you have quite a diehard customer that wakes up early."
"I wanted to come up with a product that women can put on their exposed skin when they dress and give you that warm feelings of velvet skin, a little shimmer, a smell that is quite relaxing after the stress from having to dress up (quickly) while the partner downstairs says, 'You are late, you are late.'
"It's this kind of service I like to bring to my customer — it's to make her life the less painful possible when she has to be glamorous."
Known as the "King of the Dress" for his flattering, body-hugging styles worn by such celebrities as Victoria Beckham, Halle Berry, Megan Fox and Cameron Diaz, Mouret has had a roller-coaster career. He burst on the fashion scene in 1998 with a number of beautifully draped dresses secured with safety pins because, at the time, he didn’t know how to make a buttonhole.
Soon afterwards, according to an article in Vogue, one of his private clients bought his company — including the rights to his name — after her husband proposed to her while she was wearing a Mouret piece.
However the relationship soured and Mouret walked away from the business relationship in 2005, only a month after his Galaxy dress made a huge runway splash and was later labeled "the dress of the decade."
"My philosophy is everything that puts you down makes you stronger. I embrace the fact that I couldn't put my name inside the clothes."
He signed a partnership deal with American Idol creator Simon Fuller in 2006 and launched his new label, RM by Roland Mouret. “My hands are more important than my name,” he told the New York Times.
Mouret bought back the rights to his name two years ago and now says he feels blessed by the experience.
"My philosophy is everything that puts you down makes you stronger. I embrace the fact that I couldn't put my name inside the clothes. You should read my name on the outside of the dress (from noticing the design). And that was really important. It was one of the best learning experiences of my life."
Mouret, who travels around the world for his work and watches the TV news in various cities, says there's hardly a female news anchor who isn't wearing his Galaxy or Moon dresses — or a copy. His form-fitting styles, made with a technique that features geometric angles and folded patterns, have been widely imitated.
Doesn't it upset him that he has been copied so much?
"When I am upset I think about Chanel," he said about one of the world's most copied labels. "It's success to be fame."
"I'm quite happy that my clothes are more famous than me."
He also finds that stars are people, too. He says his celebrity clientele shares the same problem as "what we call the normal woman. They want to look good. They want to enhance what is good about them. And this is what I'm good at."
Indeed, Mouret has the knack of creating a dress that is comfortable but looks sexy. "That's what the fashion designer in our time has to think about. Fashion is not just to make a model with a little size zero and is 14 (years old) and has no shape. Fashion is about a woman who has got a female form, who wears a bra, and (cares about) the neckline of the dress."
He has experimented with revolutionary fashion ideas, like offering runway looks for order immediately. He says he was the first to collaborate with Neiman's to created a limited edition collection exclusively for the retail chain three years ago.
"I like to think outside the box. I like to come with new ideas. I like to do things that nobody has done before. It's not about me. It's about the service I can deliver," he said. "I'm quite happy that my clothes are more famous than me."
For his spring 2013 collection, Mouret delivers an '80s vibe, featuring jackets with padded shoulders and bright colors.
"The world we're living in has an '80s vibe, with the advent of (the television series) Dallas and its new team," he said.
"I was lucky to be 20 in the '80s and I have a lot of respect about the way I use the reference of the '80s. Whatever the age we are, we're still 20 inside, so we have all that feeling of youth and feeling right with ourselves. It's to find that balance with clothing.
"And fashion is fun. At the end, it's something about to enjoy."