Scalloped edges, flowers, pink net, marabou trim—sounds so vanilla-girly, doesn’t it? Not in Simone Rocha’s universe. In her spring show, almost a ceremony (it was in a Baroque church, accompanied by a live-organ overture) the out-and-out pretty joined hands with the downright perverse. Even better, there was none of your “concept” or “drama” getting in the way of the obvious wearability of her clothes—or the crazy desirability of the multiplicity of fluffily trimmed shoes. The fact is that Simone Rocha has an exponentially growing business, based on her inside knowledge of what tons of young women want to wear. And that knowledge says that there’s power in not being simperingly gussied-up.
Okay: So how did we get to see-through trenches and dresses with old-lady headscarves turned backward to veil girls’ faces? Why that quite brilliant opening of black, asymmetric marabou-edged things? And where did her jolly-garish passage of red, with 3-D flowers fit in? It all comes down to backstory. As Rocha put it—“I’m Chirish!”—the product of a happy, creative family which is Irish on one side (Odette, her mum, who is also her business partner) and Hong-Kong-Chinese on the other (John Rocha, her fashion designer dad). And it was watching a Pina Bausch piece about Hong Kong which set Rocha off on this collection, an inspiration which accounts for “all the wavy movement” in the hemlines and the red-flowered chinoiserie passage.
Rocha is still at the age where her imaginative decisions spring directly and naturally from her emotions and her two heritages. The third element of influence acknowledged in this show (an influence shared and acknowledged by so many designers this season in London, from Jonathan Saunders to Christopher Kane): She was a student of the late Professor Louise Wilson. The last words on her program notes read, “In memoriam.”