Family has always been central to Simone Rocha’s practice. She is, as a starting point, part of a fashion dynasty - the daughter of acclaimed designer John Rocha, who, in the 1990s, was somewhat the Simone of today; young, buzzy, adored and good with a bit of embellishment. Additionally, Rocha’s mother, the inimitable Odette is never far from her daughter, inspiring and advising in equal measure. Rocha’s brother Max is involved in his own way, creating the soundtracks for the shows. Recently, Rocha added to her brood, giving birth to a daughter, Valentine, in November 2015. The baby has, in turn, inspired collections - allowing Rocha to muse on motherhood, women, ageing, all important issues to her brand given that if you wander into her Mount Street store, or indeed her brand new New York store on Wooster Street, it’s full of women of all different ages, many over 50. In summary, this is truly an intergenerational brand - one that combines the ideals and needs of a variety of people at different stages of life. It felt authentic then that Rocha cast iconic older models: 73-year-old Benedetta Barzini who was discovered in 1963 and got her break with Irving Penn via Diana Vreeland, fellow 70-something Jan de Villeneuve, 36-year-old Audrey Marnay and 50-year-old Helmut Lang favourite Cecilia Chancellor. Many will respond with gushing headlines - 'A political statement from Rocha', 'Fashion For Any Age' and so on, but really this felt like Rocha was simply reflecting the women who buy her clothes. That shouldn’t seem revolutionary, given that it’s long proven that women are more likely to buy from adverts and messages containing women who resemble them, but in the world of high fashion, it’s rare. Rocha is a sincere designer - her clothes are full of emotion and passion but also conviction and clarity in her own point of view. On another designers’ runway this could have felt like a gimmick, here it felt touching.
Those who followed Rocha at the start of her career often commented that she created a warped take on girlishness - well this was a warped take on womanhood. She’d crafted a warrior - clad in khaki, wrapped up for winter. Or was she a hunter? Fur stoles and fuzzy shoes littered the show and many models clutched fur bags that resembled, at first glance, a shot rabbit, carried home with pride. Her signature red spooky flowers became almost aggressive - strident, bold, punchy, unashamedly present. Many of the garments came belted with military-esque leather harnesses, even the closing white lace look, which, without this detail, could have been mistaken for Rocha’s take on a wedding gown. But look a little closer, despite the fabric, this wasn’t soft at all - it was a military-style suit, complete with two pockets on the chest. Fighting spirit - this collection was full of it.
A closing note - when Rochas’ fuzzy pool slides and slingbacks first appeared, I sighed. Another designer doing fluffy shoes. Haven’t we reached peak? It’s credit to Rocha that hers felt totally new, totally her and totally covetable. They felt like a fresh idea, part of a wider narrative for the collection, rather than an attempt to jump on a trend. Rocha always managed to go her own way, to stand outside of the fashion melee and to surprise.