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Hair Hiroki Yoshimori using Khiels since 1851 / Mo
Hair Hiroki Yoshimori using Khiels since 1851 / Model Calum Wilson at Select

The Advent of Rozalb de Mura

From Transylvania comes Olah Gyarfus, fashion’s most exciting new menswear talent.

Transylvania might be better known for gypsies and vampires, but it’s also the home of Olah Gyarfas, one of the most exciting new European designers around. Gyarfas is the designer for Rozalb de Mura, the Romanian menswear brand whose hype has been steadily snowballing for the past few seasons. But, although the label was only launched three years ago, fashion has run in Gyarfas’s blood forever. “My mother was a tailor,” he explains. “I’ve always been surrounded by clothes, textures and patterns, people trying on new things and the beauty of it all.”

Rozalb De Mura encapsulates all the elements of the Carpathian landscape in which its headquarters are nestled, and takes its lead (and name) from their self-created fictional hero, Baron Rozalb de Mura, who is said to roam the mountains of Romania and travel through time and space. Minimalist silhouettes, craftsmanship and historical references are just a few of the label’s traits, and their spring/summer 2009 collection follows exactly those guidelines. “It’s always a challenge to look back into the past and reinterpret elements with a 21st-century mind,” says Gyarfas. “So the Rozalb de Mura spring/summer collection, The Drums of War Will Thunder Once Again, has a strange, out-of-this-world kind of feeling.”

Gyarfas likes to work in the space where gender distinction is blurred, which sees his new collection setting razor-sharp tailoring against the softness of white, blue and cream fabrics. Alongside the androgyny, 19th century-inspired elongated shirts with puffed sleeves evoke the mood of monastic warriors, while voluminous, pleated trousers recall MC Hammer’s inimitable 80s style. “I admire minimalism,” explains Gyarfas. “But I also love the flamboyant exuberance and foolishness of the 80s.”

Gyarfas brought his energetic aesthetic to life in 2007, with the opening of Rozalb de Mura’s Bucharest store, which was designed by Liste Noir. Priding itself on collaborations with underground artists, musicians and writers, Rozalb de Mura is also known for its unconventional catwalk presentations. Last September, London’s On / Off played host to Gyarfas’s unique vision. Shown alongside Mark Fast and Alexander Koutny, Rozalb de Mura was the only label to present a solely men’s collection. Needless to say, we hope Gyarfas doesn’t stay in the mountains for too long.

Dazed Digital: How old are you?
Olah Gyarfas: I'm 32.

DD: How long have you been designing?
OG: Ever since I was a child. My decision to choose textile design at university was influenced by my background. My mother is a tailor. I've always been surrounded by clothes, textures and patterns, people trying on new things, the excitement and beauty of it all. It was more of an instinctual draw to this field. It all got serious when I started to work as designer under the Rozalb de Mura label almost three years ago. 

DD: Where are you based?
OG: Rozalb de Mura studio and the production facilities are based in Miercurea Ciuc, a town in Transylvania. I live in a small village nearby, in the mountains. Where the air is so pure and strong you get dizzy when you breathe in. Generally it's terribly cold in the winter. A lot of snow and all seems empty and quiet, which suits me perfectly.

DD: Why menswear / Womenswear?
OG: I prefer designing menswear. It's more challenging, I guess: more limitations and obstructions, less freedom to create new forms. You can't really reinvent forever a pair of trousers or a shirt, so attention to details and subtleties is therefore essential. But we have a beautiful smaller collection of womenswear too at Rozalb de Mura.

DD: How would you describe your style?
OG: It's really hard to apply a cold definition to something that springs from within me, that is so personal and so sincere. I adore minimalism, and paradoxically enough, the flamboyant exuberance and foolishness of the '80s. The outcome might be described as a mix of daring ideas and apparently classical cuts. A contemporary look and a vaguely perverse air here and there, unexpected details and bold inserts. That is what Rozalb de Mura is about. And of course, the stories of each collection.

DD: What inspires you at the moment?.
OG: It's in the past that I found inspiration this time. That is, in a distant and troubled past when wars were raging, freedom was ardently craved and fiercely fought for and men wore insignia of their bravery on their battle clothes. It's always a challenge to look back in the past and to discover and reinterpret elements with a 21st century mind. So the current Rozalb de Mura SS09 collection "The Drums of War will Thunder Once Again" has a strange and out-of-this-world feeling.

"Vitezkotes", the Hungarian for "the string of the brave" is the beautifully embroidered black string that nowadays is a graphic decoration on the traditional Hungarian male costume in Transylvania. This is the symbol that ignited my curiosity and made me delve into XIX century cutting and assembling techniques.
DD: Were you interested in Fashion when you were growing up?
OG: I've always adored beautiful clothes, combining textures and colors. I used to design my own clothes and sometimes I would get quite daring for a provincial town enduring capacity.

DD: What was your favorite outfit from your youth?
OG: When a was a teenager I would nonchalantly display an all-white look. The-young-heir-visiting-his-estate crossbred with a tennis player from the '70s.

DD: With all of the press interest in your collection what are your plans now?
OG: I have this superstition of dreams not being turned into reality if one unveils them. I prefer to keep them in the comforting and hidden dimension of the "possible. On Rozalb de Mura the biggest challenge is to keep things developing in the right direction; Sometimes coming from Romania makes things even more difficult.
Otherwise, I'd very much like to build a special home, wood and stone, in a beautiful village nearby the place I live now.

DD: What is your dream job?
OG: I would love to collaborate as a designer with Miuccia Prada or Comme des Garcons. But not for more than one year. It could be suffocating. "Nothing grows in the shade of big trees", as Brancusi said upon parting from his maestro Rodin.

DD: Who are your favourite designers and why?
OG: There is a long list, I could rapidly pick some names: Hedi Slimane – for he transformed the male silhouette and is one of those visionary people who create a world, Gareth Pugh – for his theatrical and humorous, immediately recognizable style, the Japanese lot (Rei Kawakubo, Yoji Yamamoto, etc) – for the purity of form and respect for technological innovations in materials, Marithe Francois Girbaud – for the way in which their messages trespass the boundaries of fashion. And J W Anderson.

DD: Who do would be your ideal customer?
OG: Someone creative and ludic, that looks upon life with openness and curiosity. Someone that doesn't blindingly follow trends or copy "entire looks" without applying any personal philter. 

DD: Can we buy your collection anywhere? If so, where?
OG: There are few very nice boutiques we are working with and quickly mention some of them: Best Shop – Berlin, Ostblock in Zurich, Two See in London, Takashimaya in New York, Sreda in Ljublijana, I Love Shopping in Bologna and others in Italy, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Germany;

DD: Are you involved in any outside projects in other fields?
OG: Designing Rozalb de Mura collections takes most of my time. Nevertheless, from time to time I escape into exciting collaborations with various artists. Together with the team I work with, we are involved in interesting multidisciplinary projects. Rozalb de Mura commissioned the British sound artist Mikhail Karikis to compose the music for our show at Ideal Berlin and OnIoff last season and he commissioned us to do special pieces for his performances and a drawing for his stunning Morphica album that is released these days. Another project was designing a special bag for the Contemporary Art Biannual in Berlin - "When Things Cast No Shadow".

Rozalb De Mura will be showing their new A/W09 collection at ON/OFF on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 Monday February 23rd at 8.30pm.