London is oft castigated by seasoned fashion journalists for focusing solely on styling exercises and surface decoration. Many designers on the official schedule conform to this, and you see it especially with certain graduates. I don’t think that should be dwelt on—what makes London so special, specifically this season, is that its erupting with energy, colour and ideas. There are, as always, designers that don’t fit a mould, they’ve created their own and find comfort there. They operate in ways similar to the American kingpins in the sense that every collection is a character building exercise—except most of the London counterparts are more intellectually driven.
Simone Rocha is a designer who, in her five years in business, has developed unique signatures. Broderie anglaise, floral motifs, lace, the list continues… Last season she explored poetry in childbirth, the aftermath, how it changes you. It was a decidedly dark collection. Spring 2017 was a counterpoint to that collection. Simone said to Tim Blanks, “I felt like myself again.” For this next stage in her personal and business lives, she opted for a different venue: selecting Southwark Cathedral, the oldest cathedral building in London, having been there since 606 AD.
Where Simone excels is that she hasn’t given in to the crucifying commercial constraints that brands don’t return from—most New York labels, for example. She creates pretty dresses, sure, but there’s perversity, eroticism, religious elements. They undoubtedly enrich her oeuvre which we’ve seen progress from black slip dresses to fully-fledged dream dresses that are imbued with a personal story, and a blank page for the customer to live out their story.
Simone is one for a story. The hardworking Irish mentality was a potent influence in this collection. Jackie Nickerson’s photographs of the agriculturalists, Paul Henry’s The Potato Diggers seen in The National Gallery of Ireland were the collection’s starting points. Selena Forrest opened the show in all white—a border anglaise coat and frilled trousers, lucite-heel Wellington boots, prim gloves. Deconstructed tulle appeared frayed, messy, worn. Collapsing tailoring: items were falling off the models bodies from an arduous day’s work. Deep reds from Henry’s paintings, yellows and greens from Nickerson’s photography. My mind kept referring to famine times in Ireland, although these women were slightly too polished for that. There was knowing vulnerability but also collectedness, Simone fine-tuning the duality.
The way that Simone incorporates Ireland in her collections never ceases to inspire endlessly or pique an unexplored interest. Though not directly stated, there were whiffs of an Irish communion, working culture of yore; more directly, the ‘Sunday best’ dressing, the visual effects of labour. These elements of Irish culture are still prevalent in certain parts today. The collection wasn’t wholly conservative, like Ireland, either—there was the bubbling sexuality, the perversity.
It would be foolish to declare this collection her best to date, because she’ll return next season with another unforgettable knockout.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com