It opened with a white satin dress: on paper it may sound dull, but it had all the Simone Rocha signifiers. Firstly, the silhouette and proportion were subverted. The body of the dress was loose, billowy; there were ballooned sleeves; interestingly, at the knees the dress was cinched, creating a fishtail. It was oddly feminine and decidedly in line with her aesthetic. The neutral colour palette referring to the naturalistic work of Borremans.
One felt the satin reflecting the the shiny surface of porcelain dolls. She furthered the childhood reference pool by adding simplistically drawn stickmen to dresses and cartoon-like renderings of flower petals (a recurring motif) to dresses. It’s true to say her output ponders on childhood, the act of a child playing dress up. But it’s much richer than that. One must factor in the undercurrent of sex running throughout her work. Secondly, the generation-less nature of her garments has seen her come on leaps and bounds, achieving a wider customer base in her wake. It adds to the exciting contrasts found in her work. Childlike innocence vs sex, playful femininity vs modesty.
Femininity in the world of Rocha has long been characterised by a saccharine undertone, pervasive from her beginnings at the Central Saint Martins MA show six years ago. Her unique brand of hyper-femininity is never alienating—it should be noted she favours gothic touches which add a certain perversity to the sweetness of her work. It appears in the way Chantilly lace accents garments and sheer fabrics dominate her collections, but in black and deep red hue. Victoriana is an integral part of her world also. Her most recognisable pieces stem from the epochal influence, and her design handwriting is very much informed by the 1800s. Some of the best looks were the ones that simplified the inspiration: Cara Taylor’s white, double-breasted trench had lace accents on the collar and sleeves; a patterned dress with a cinched waist and full skirt, with black flower appliqués.
When one witnesses top editors and buyers arriving to the show it is a testament to her strength and draw as a designer. It isn’t brouhaha—like many other London designers whose insane press attention doesn’t match their minimal retail presence. She receives laudatory praise—rightfully—season on season; her clothes are stocked in Dover Street Market, Bergdorf Goodman and 10 Corso Como. Futile it would be to question her storming success. Evident in her work is a deep understanding of the female psyche—this show may have swapped strength for vulnerability, but a shift like this only adds more nuance to her already layered work.