“Should fashion be explained? Are references and discourses a necessity to enjoy fashion?” were some of the questions Meryll Rogge mulled over with friends during the creation of her spring line-up. The discussions inspired the cheeky “All Talk” lip print by Jorn Olsthoorn.
“Fashion is like music, you don’t need to know the backstory to be able to enjoy it,” says Rogge, who hit all the right notes with a collection chock-full of pieces that need no spin. What’s not to love about a valentine-red oversized cardigan jacket and shorts trimmed with tinsel, workwear in a range of Crayola colors, or artfully deconstructed denim?
The heart wants what it wants, and one of the reasons people have warmed so quickly to Rogge’s work is that it is at once reassuringly familiar and new. The Belgian designer isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel: “We like to work with recognizable items,” she says via Zoom. “It makes people connect… and it’s comforting for people, they get an entrance into something that they understand already.”
For spring, Rogge revisits workwear, taking fisherman coats and quilted jackets, for example, far upstream from, say, L.L. Bean, through proportion and color play. Her motivation to explore these kinds of pieces was personal. “Running this small business and being very active, I like to be able to wear practical things. I need to put my phone somewhere, I need to run around, and in Belgium there’s rain,” she says.
In light of the new Costume Institute exhibition, it’s impossible to miss, in the toppers, top-stitched denim and jean skirts a touch of the red, white, and blue. Rogge, who lived in New York when working for Marc Jacobs explains that “this Americana is also such an iconic part of my youth. When I was a teenager, it was very much about Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger; and all those people created this amazing universe that’s going back further, of course, to the original 1900 workwear pieces… and then the Japanese did it very well too.” Rogge admits there’s an autobiographical aspect to her work, and this season’s deep-dive into deconstruction is, she says, a way to pay homage to her Belgian idols.
These frameworks bring added value to the clothes, but they lose nothing without them. An out-sized tuxedo coat/dress with contrast cuffs and a bricolage brooch, a bustier top with jacquard “wings” extending from a checkerboard knit bottom, silky dresses for nights out, and a vintage-looking sequined skirt, are invitations to get dresses and go out into the world again. If this collection sets your heart racing it might be, in part, because enthusiasm is contagious. Rogge really enjoys what she does. “My love for fashion is many things,” she says, explaining that her likes range across categories and from Cristóbal Balenciaga to Paul Poiret. “I know it might sound a little surprising, but it’s genuine.” As is Rogge.