Since establishing her brand in 2010, Simone Rocha has attracted a cult following for clothes and accessories that toy with notions of femininity. At a glance, Rocha’s romantic dresses (for which she is perhaps best known) seem to be extolling prim and proper virtues; but beneath the beads, the pearls, the florals, and the lace, there’s a subversity and even a perversity, too.
Rocha cites the likes of Louise Bourgeois and the work of Nobuyoshi Araki as among her inspirations, and a nod towards Victorian mourning dress is pervasive throughout her collections. Establishing ties between the clothing worn by women in the past and the women she designs for today is one of her most impressive abilities. Subsequently, her pieces possess a timeless quality and appeal to a demographic of all ages.
Yesterday, the designer staged an A/W19 show which, styled by Dazed’s creative director Robbie Spencer, reflected just that: the casting including models in their early 20s, to Kirsten Owen, who is now in her late 40s, and Marie Sophie Wilson Carr, who is 55. Here, we speak with six Simone Rocha devotees, who agree that as soon as they fell in love with her work, they knew it would be for life.
Celestine Cooney, Stylist
“Simone assisted me for a few months when she came to London for work experience before starting her MA at Central Saint Martins. We ended up having the time of our lives – it was one of those wild hedonistic summers and after that, we were just friends for life really. The first pieces I owned by Simone were from the A/W12 collection – a black cowskin cocoon-shaped bomber jacket and a cream sleeveless wool bomber. Both pieces are still entirely relevant and look as contemporarily classic today as they did then. I also love my red tapestry dress from A/W15, because it’s regal and strong; it has that dichotomy of gentle feminine power that Simone does so uniquely well.
“The leopard-print coat from A/W13 is a piece that I will love forever and that collection was a favourite of mine. The fabrications that season came under names like ‘the mackerel’, ‘Pepto Bismol’, ‘the chicken’ and ‘the leopard’ – there was a wonderful sense of humour and a brave new quirkiness in that collection that I loved. Wearing her pieces makes me feel a part of a legacy – part of a family. Mostly, I love that you can look so strong in a beautiful feminine dress; you look like you could lead an army in her clothes.”
Daisy Hoppen, Founder of DH-PR
“Mine and Simone’s families are old friends and I always loved her father John Rocha’s collections, too. Before Simone even started her own brand, my sisters and I would all borrow my mum’s John Rocha clothes when we were little. So I’ve loved all things Rocha for forever! I remember her collection for A/W12 so vividly – it was a breakthrough moment and I just wanted everything on that runway. The thing I love about Simone’s clothes is that anyone can wear them and working in Dover Street Market I see such a myriad of different women buy them. What’s really special about her is that she has a real sense of identity. You know instinctively that it’s a Simone piece as soon as you see it. She really owns that look.
“Her shows are always really quiet and calm, and very serene. There are always so many familiar faces at her shows too. It feels like going back to see family. In terms of pieces I own, Simone and black dresses are a real weakness for me. I have this sleeveless black lace one with ruching below the hips which I love – I’ve worn it with tights and a polo-neck underneath and to the Fashion Awards with heels. I also love her hair accessories – I have an obscene amount of those. I also love her coats – they’re brilliant. I have a coat from her second collection which is just a wool, oversized black cocoon coat – but it’s one of the best I own.”
Isabella Burley, Editor-in-Chief, Dazed
“The first piece I owned by Simone was a top that she gave me as a thank you for a Dazed interview I did with her around 2012. Then, the first thing I actually bought was a faux-fur leopard print coat that I still wear to this day. Looking back, I think those early collections were so special. One that really stands out in my mind is S/S14 – there were see-through, embroidered trench coats and peephole cut-outs up the thigh on skirts. It had a perversity and sexuality to it that I really loved. I think that’s something you still see in her collections now (especially last night’s show) and it’s what I’m drawn to; the darker edge to her work.
“I literally live in black jeans and a black jumper, but I feel that by adding a Simone shoe or a pair of her crystal earrings makes it into something special. At the moment I’m really coveting the beaded headbands – I borrowed one to wear at the recent AnOther Magazine party in Paris – and it was also my birthday so they very kindly let me have it for the evening. When I launched the Sisters by Jim Britt book in New York last year, I wore an off the shoulder tinsel Simone dress, too. My best friend Lizzie works with Simone, and she wore a custom dress to get married in, with a pink coat over the top. The bridesmaids (including me) wore archival pieces. I’m always really proud to wear Simone, especially during a time where fashion can feel so inauthentic. To have a real connection to the pieces that you’re wearing, and to feel part of the extended family of the brand, is so special.”
Laila Gohar, Chef, Artist and Events Designer
“I own so many pieces by Simone Rocha! Basically, Simone dresses are the only fashion I spend my money on and I don’t really shop for much else. But with Simone dresses, it’s like a real collection and every season I need as many different fabrics and colourways as possible. I think where Simone is really genius is when the silhouettes are very exaggerated – that’s what I’m really drawn to. I have this long, red coat for example, and it’s one of the craziest pieces I have. I bought it thinking it wouldn’t become my everyday coat, but it did! For me, her clothes are like a uniform.”
“Simone also custom made my wedding dress. I rode in on a donkey wearing it! I went to the store and tried on this one black dress that I just fell in love with. I reached out to a friend who knew Simone asking to put us in touch to see if they were able to make it in white. It felt really comfortable – it wasn't something I had to stuff myself in. I haven’t worn my Simone wedding dress again yet, but I am planning on it.”
Lucy Kumara Moore, Writer and Director of Claire de Rouen Books
“I first encountered Simone’s work through a very good friend of mine called Niamh Quinn – it was the first year I was directing Claire de Rouen, which would have been 2012, and Simone also used to come into the shop with her partner to buy books. I own many pairs of earrings by Simone Rocha. I think my favourite is the extra long, crystal drop earrings that look a little bit like icicles. I also have an incredible dress that is black silk and tulle with beautiful bows on the cuffs of the sleeves.”
“I own a great slip dress, too, and a black tulle top that is backless with thick cord ties that go around the waist and the shoulders. It feels like a play on historical dress; like a bondage piece that Queen Elizabeth I might have worn. I think the best way to wear Simone is as a full look, because the atmosphere of what she does is so singular. Her clothes channel what feels to me like an ancient power of womanhood; she expresses qualities, emotions and intellects in the clothes she designs that reflect this idea of a powerful female tenacity. It’s something to do with the fact that the dress is the garment that feels like it’s at the centre of all she makes.”
Nell Kalonji, Fashion Editor of AnOther Magazine
“I go to Simone for anything from shoes and bags to shirts, trousers and dresses. The most recent thing I bought is this amazing oversized teddy bear fur jacket, which I love. To me, Simone Rocha’s work is timeless, and that is what I love about her clothes. She’s not trend-led and is sort of her own entity. Anything I buy of hers is a life-long investment, which also means I never feel guilty splurging... It can be a dangerous thing!
“Her clothes make me feel good and are comfortable on – and I am not just talking about the shirts or jumpers. Last year I bought an elaborate lace skirt. Before trying it, I wouldn’t have described it as ‘easy to wear’, but the way it is constructed and sits on your body is so beautiful and comfortable. I also love her versatile customers base – you don’t have to be a 5’11’’ and 20-years-old to wear her clothes... But if you are, that’s cool too! She makes clothes for women of all sizes, ages and shapes. Going into one of her stores will confirm that: all the very diverse ladies working in there wear her clothes and they wear them so well.”