A little over 6 weeks ago, Dries Van Noten (Papa Dries, affectionately coined by me) announced his retirement, sending shockwaves throughout the industry. What came next was a barrage of questions about who could possibly helm the beloved house that means so much to so many. For a story on his retirement, I was asked by GQ who I felt should replace him. My first answer was Meryll Rogge. 

The iconic photographer and frequent Dries collaborator Tommy Ton, who was also interviewed for the story, sent me a DM: “You and I are on the same page guessing Meryll as the likely successor.”

I’d been watching Meryll for some time and shopped pieces from her brand at Nordstrom, SSENSE and Net-a-Porter. Her eponymous line, the perfect balance of quirk and androgyny, frames the duplexity of modern women. “It would be so much easier if I only made one product, like cargo pants or dresses. The retailers would understand it better. But that's not how a woman works,” says Rogge. 

In this conversation, Meryll and I discuss launching a line during the pandemic, working for Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten, hopes of dressing Chloe Sevigny and Cindy Sherman, her deep appreciation for Demna and Martine Rose, the retailers who don’t pay designers, and how she feels about the possibility of helming the house of Dries Van Noten.

MR portrait by Sloan Laurits
Backstage photos by Jorre Janssens
Runway photos courtesy of Meryll Rogge

Meryll Rogge: Nice sweater. 

Amanda M: Thank you very much. I love your knits. I have a couple of them. What is your sign, Meryll? What's your zodiac sign? 

M: I'm a Sagittarius. Like Gianni Versace and I think John Galliano. I was just telling David Siwicki when he mentioned today is his birthday that he's the same sign as Miuccia Prada and Dries. 

A: Yes! A lot of my favorite designers are Taureans. Dries, Issey Miyake, Gaultier, Lacroix, Donatella Verace and Nicolas Ghesquiere. Anyway, I first discovered your work in 2021. I was walking around Bergdorf's, and I sort of stumbled on a rack with three items. And I don't know what made me stop, but I did, and I thought, who's Meryll Rogge? I Google’d you while I was in the fitting room and then saw the collection in its entirety on Vogue Runway. Then I learned of your very tenured background. How was it to launch your brand in 2021? It was such a precarious time to go out on your own. 

M: It was crazy. We launched, I'm not kidding, March 2020. And 10 days later, it was lockdown everywhere. It started with Europe, and then it was America. And we had already received all these orders. Bergdorf’s, Nordstrom, Ssense, still some of our best clients. I think we had 35 retailers for the first season. I mean, we had a really amazing first season. So here we were with all of these orders, and we didn't know what to do. All the factories were closing. We didn't know when anything was going to reopen, if ever.

We worked with the sales team and the retailers themselves, and we decided to rebrand the collection. It was initially a fall collection, but we sold it as resort, which meant we delivered a little bit later because otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible. There's a saying; luck with bad luck. The silver lining is that while I've worked for a long time in fashion, it was mostly in design and I’d never done production. So those extra months were welcomed. In the end, it was a blessing in disguise, to be honest. 

A: Another thing that piqued my interest in you at the time is that we rarely hear about women designers leaving the fold of illustrious fashion houses to go out on their own. I feel like the industry has created this landscape and given latitude to male designers to leave their jobs with the reward of ascent, like Matthieu Bleazy or Seán McGirr. It’s just rare for women. So, I thought to myself, who is this woman? When was the moment you decided to take that leap?  What was it like to say, okay, I must do this for myself, right now. 

M: It's something that has always been boiling inside me. Even before I studied at Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, during that time, I was obsessed with fashion or working in fashion. I always thought about having my own collection but I was also a really big fan of certain designers. So when I graduated with my bachelor's, I got an internship with Marc Jacobs, and that ultimately became my first job for 7 years. I never went back to get my masters. That's a whole other story. 

I really wanted to have an experience with my heroes. I wanted to see how they were doing it by just observing, just seeing, learning. The academy taught me how to think independently and be creative. But to be honest, we didn't really know about fabrics, how to build a collection, how things really work. The 1st year at Marc coupled with the years in the academy were formative and taught me to be both creative and practical. Hmm, actually I don't like the word practical. 

A: Is there a celebrity in your mind that you would love to dress? 

M: I'm not really interested in dressing a celebrity for 1 night on the red carpet where they're restricted and can’t move and they must take a bus to get to the event because they can't sit. I'd be very happy to help someone get dressed and feel good on the red carpet. But a must for me is that you must be able to walk, move and live your life and feel good in the garment.

That being said, I’ve always dreamt about dressing strong personalities, someone like the artist Tracey Emin going back a decade to 20 years ago. And I would love to dress her still today - I love her bold and unapologetic attitude. Willem Dafoe is another one that's not only super talented but on an aesthetic level, he’s such a character. I really admire Connan Mockasin, it would be fun because he’s so extravagant. I have been following him from the beginning since his first single. And of course I love Dev Hynes and Frank Ocean, talents that are a bit more in the fashion scene.

One of my biggest dreams is to be a costume designer for a movie. Maybe it would be a career after fashion, but I think I could bring a lot of input to the characters. That would bring everything I love together into one large project.

There're some women I appreciate like Cindy Sherman, women artists that have a lot of character. It would be nice to dress talented actresses too. Meryl Streep is more of a forever icon. I'm also thinking about Chloe Sevigny who has a lot of talent when it comes to choosing her fashion, always.

A: Chloe has been my personal style icon since I was a teenager. I've always said she's the only person that could influence me to buy something. 

M: Yeah, for sure.  Over the years, she's just stepped it up even more. You know, Charlotte Rampling would be iconic too. She’s beautiful and has so much character with a clear and very distinct personality. The common thread for me is strong women who are doing something interesting with their lives. There's some men too. Perhaps an athlete... but to be honest it would be nice to have one of my idols wear something from the brand. Marc, Dries and Miuccia. That that would be the ultimate compliment. 

" I'm not really interested in dressing a celebrity for 1 night on the red carpet where they're restricted and can’t move and they must take a bus to get to the event because they can't sit. I'd be very happy to help someone get dressed and feel good on the red carpet."

A: It would be! As your brand launched amid the pandemic, the way you presented the collections have obviously changed. You're doing runway shows now. Which do you prefer, look books or shows? And has the response to your collections changed since you started doing shows? 

M: Well, I must admit that it's a small show. We haven't had the opportunity to do a big show yet, which is fine. But for us, it helps us to understand how we want to present things, such as casting. We have to be super focused, we must make good choices, and you cannot mess that up because there’s no going back. I've been really pleased with the casting that we've had in the last few years. VM casting has been super supportive. Piergiorgio Del Moro and Alejandra have been key people in the evolution of the brand. It's very different to do a show than to do a look book, with the biggest difference of course being the energy, the crowd. The last one we did was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. More RSVP’s than anticipated. Some people couldn't get in, and I felt embarrassed about this. But, you know, it's a good lesson learned. The energy that we had afterwards was amazing, we had everybody come in for a big party. It was incredible. 

With a look book, you need to bring a little bit more fashion to the table, and you need to be able to do very advanced styling. But I enjoy both. I think both are great. I haven't decided yet, but maybe the next one will be a look book to take a little break. It's really taxing and demanding on the team. We have a very small team, and when you host 500 people, it's a lot. But let's see what happens. 

A: You've worked for Dries Van Noten and Marc Jacobs, and although different in sensibilities, they're actually similar in their commitment to storytelling and how they want women to feel powerful in their clothes. How do you want your clients to feel in your clothes? 

M: It's interesting that you mentioned this storytelling aspect, because that's really what it is. It's about bringing a unique view to the table. It's about telling a new story every season and keeping things fresh, full of surprise, and venturing from opposite sides of the table. Going from something very ethereal and beautiful to something very dark and with a rage to it. The feelings behind each collection change from one season to another. With Marc, it's a bit more stable but there's always a surprise element that really keeps you hooked, keeps your attention. And it's not cheap. You know, some things that we see today are very cheap, attention-seeking tricks. And it doesn't stem from that. It stems from true desire to create, true desire to make things evolve, to do things your own way, and I really appreciate that. There are more people like this, but there can be a lot of noise today I think. 

A: What did you learn most from Marc Jacobs, and what did you learn most from Dries? 

M: I learned about precision at Marc. It's mind boggling, you know. The way those clothes are made. There's a totally different approach that's almost couture because everything is so well thought through. The color, the nuance of the color, the inside of the skirt is analyzed and reviewed. And it won't be the perfect match, it will intentionally be a little bit off to keep that bit of a nuance to it. It's incredible. And then there's hours and hours and hours of fittings. It's funny because I love how much Marc was influenced by having worked at Charivari, that famous store in New York. He would spend hours and hours watching all these details on garments. So it's the same approach. It's an apprenticeship that you need to go through.

At Dries, it was a totally different moment. I was the head of women's, and that was a big responsibility. It was more about looking at the total picture. What are we doing for the show? What are we doing in general? What story do we want to tell? What does the casting have to say? When we did Dries’ 100th show, the thing that made it, in my opinion, was the casting. We made the decision that we were going to work with all the models that we cherished over the years. That for me was the beginning of a new era in fashion, where after that, everybody worked with women of any age or men of any age. When we made the decision, it was like, woah. Are we sure about this?

And we thought, yes. Let's do it. It was daring, thinking about the bigger picture. That's what I really learned while working with Dries. 

A: As we’re on the topic of Dries, I saw that he attended your presentation last year. It got me thinking about your relationship with him. Obviously, you've left his fold, but what do you think made him approach you to consult on the fragrance? 

M: Oh, it was a very natural thing. To be honest, I had just decided to go freelance, to take a little step back, and to think about the future and starting my own collection. And there was a new team in place, but we always had a really nice working relationship, and I think he wanted to work with someone that he knew very well on this completely new venture. He called me and said, listen, we have a new project going on, do you want to help out? And then, of course, I thought it was a one time thing. Now it's 6 years later and we're still working on things, so it’s really wonderful. 

I had only designed clothes up until that moment. And now we had to think about all these other things. Like what does the bottle look like? What do they smell like? What's the story there? It's been super nice and, of course, this consulting has led to more consulting on other projects. 

A: There's a really strong sense of community amongst younger designers today. Something that I feel wasn't always present. I felt like it was really competitive in the past.  I suppose younger designers are so supportive of each other because everyone's really just trying to make it. Who are some of your favorite designers today? 

M: It's funny you mention that. At the LVMH prize ceremony, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with all other emerging designers, and we all had the same struggles and the same battles. The other day, I had a friend on the phone who also has a brand, and we were talking about the really mean retailers that don't pay their bills and put us in really shitty situations. I don't want to be a whistleblower here, but someone needs to do a story about the mean retailers that are pretending like everything's fine in the press and, behind closed doors, they don't pay their bills and don't want to pay you for the merchandise that you’ve already shipped. So we bonded over that hardship to be honest.

But to answer your question on my favorite designers, I’ve been so impressed seeing Demna’s clothes in store and how well they sell. His couture collections really match my personal aesthetic. They are truly the contemporary version of the timelessness of Cristobal. I'm an enormous fan of Cristobal Balenciaga and have been even before Demna was appointed.

Simone Rocha and Martine Rose both touch a rich world and an aesthetic while still offering very appealing clothes. There’s days where I want to look ‘boyish’ with Martine and days where I want to look feminine with Simone. I love both brands.

In a general vibe sense, I admire Glenn Martens and Emily Adams Bode Aujla. They’ve built great worlds for their brands and their collaborative projects. Both of their brands and projects exist in honest, believable, personal  environments. I have to say I really appreciate how Glenn Martens has turned out in the last few years. I remember going to his first showroom at Y/project with one shirt on the rail. A white poplin shirt. And every time I see him, I say to him "I remember when." But honestly, what he's doing at Diesel is really impressive. It fits the brand. It's what it needs to be. I'm a big Raf fan. I love what he’s done. The shoes from his last collection! I love them so much, and I am still looking for them online. 

And, of course, Miuccia Prada, Miu Miu, and Prada. 

A: I'm sure you’ve heard, as we say in New York, that the streets are talking. The streets are talking  about you replacing Dries when he steps down. How do you feel about that? 

M: I mean, honestly, my phone blew up when he made his announcement, and I didn't expect it. I felt so much love from friends, from people I haven’t heard from in a decade. So many people sent me messages on Instagram and so many journalists were texting me. It's just very heartwarming to even be considered by these industry insiders and I’m so touched by the reactions. 

A: You're just doing such beautiful work. I love all of your presentations. Not a lot of designers make me feel something. When I look at your work, I feel something. I like to be feminine one day, and the next I want to feel androgynous, and I look at your clothes as a great balance of that. 

M: Thank you so much for saying that. It would be so much easier if I only made one product, like cargo pants or dresses. The retailers would understand it better. But that's not how a woman works. I'm so happy you're saying this. Thank you so much. Really, I really appreciate it.