DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT— Simone Rocha
Simone Rocha was born to do this.
All fatalistic clichés aside, Rocha’s lineage does seem to point unilaterally to her present state. As daughter to fashion designer John Rocha of Dublin, Simone attended her first fashion show as an infant. One can only imagine the long childhood hours spent in her father’s atelier, immersed not only in the fantasy of the finished product but also in the grueling process of the in-between. Her hands always busy, she learned to sew, knit, dye, and crochet with the same readiness and fluidity that most children learn to ride bicycles (although, Simone did that too — her daily cycle to her London atelier is one of the most cherished moments of her day). Where a family in fashion might alienate or even nepotize some, Rocha’s narrative is organic and self-determined, and with collection after stunning collection since her eponymous line’s debut in 2010, she has only just begun her own legacy.
A cursory glance at Rocha’s body of work immediately leaves the impression of an extreme femininity — all sculptural volume, nipped waists, bows, tulle, lace, flowers, pearls, and beads. It is an aesthetic so distilled as to be instantly recognizable, and yet the longer one looks, the more her designs reveal the complexity and darkness within their DNA. Suddenly, a delicately beaded ruby red flower appliqué takes on a bloody cast; a bondage-y strap reveals itself from within the body of a jacket; a girlish lace detail catches the light and appears wetly, as though drawn from the bottom of the ocean. Shoes are flat and practical and yet surreal in their luxury — slide sandals bedecked in ostrich feathers and floral-appliquéd patent oxfords on lucite block heels are easily worn through both opulent evenings and daily grinds. Her techniques are as rebellious in ideation as they are formalist in approach, grounded in the highest standards of technical execution.
Rocha’s subversions are subtle and yet undeniable, and their implications claim the symbolic effect of liberating women from the many historical epochs that Rocha references liberally throughout her collections. The women marching her runway are outfitted, coiffed, and styled as though they suddenly woke up inside another time, fully aware of their potential and willing to upend the world around them. Surely, the source of their power comes from the minds and hands of the women creating them — Rocha’s atelier is entirely staffed with women, and her business partner is none other than her mother, Odette.
We are fortunate to live in a time sartorially defined by a group of female designers whose vision has reshaped the way women dress to be a practice of self-determination, celebrating femininity without succumbing to misogyny or infantilization. It is a matriarchy upheld by designers like Miuccia Prada, Phoebe Philo, and Rei Kawakubo (who has taken a personal interest in Rocha) and formed by those geniuses like Claire McCardell, Madeleine Vionnet, Mary Quant, and Madame Grés before them. The greatest fashion of all time has been made by emotional creators, richly informed and well-equipped to dress the women of the world. And Simone Rocha is in dialogue with them all.