Pin It
Simone Rocha Autumn/Winter 2022
Simone Rocha Autumn/Winter 2022Photography by Paul Phung

In Pictures: Simone Rocha’s Irish Folklore-Inspired New Collection

Held at Lincoln’s Inn in London, Simone Rocha’s Autumn/Winter 2022 show was based on an old tale of four children who are turned into swans

Lead ImageSimone Rocha Autumn/Winter 2022Photography by Paul Phung

At her latest outing, Simone Rocha explored a trope that has long inspired writers, filmmakers and fashion designers alike: the loss of innocence. The Irish designer’s Autumn/Winter 2022 collection, revealed on Sunday evening in the 19th-century Great Hall of Lincoln’s Inn in Holborn, drew inspiration from The Children of Lir – an old Irish tale of four children who are turned into swans for 900 years by a jealous stepmother. Banished to live across three different lakes for near-eternity, the swans are eventually transformed back into children – although they die almost immediately. “It’s a story that’s always resonated with me since childhood,” Rocha tells AnOther. “Especially the physicality of the children turning into swans.” The press notes, as always, were cryptic; in just seven brief stanzas, they mentioned sons and daughters, bloodlines, crushed wings and darkness.

In the cavernous space of the hall – which is adorned with 17th-century paintings of judges in red gowns, a majestic fresco, and polished wood floors – models stepped into a sweeping spotlight wearing bejewelled stockings and evening gloves, pearl-rimmed balaclavas, and weighty shawls that looked more like quilted blankets. The swan theme from The Children of Lir manifested itself in interesting ways; skirts were stuffed to the brim like goose down duvets, while the models’ eyes were made up with jewels, gems and pearls that mimicked the gentle flick of a bird’s wing. “I looked to the actual anatomy of birds, their hips and wings,” Rocha explained backstage. In some versions of the Irish fable, the swans are chained together – this was echoed in the models’ floor-length pigtails, and some monstrous, knotted sleeves that trailed along the floor.

The show location provided a chance to take the story further; guests were parted on either side of a round runway, which represented the “dark lament” of the space which was shaped like a lake. Halfway through the show, an echoey rendition of Sinéad O’Connor’s love song Nothing Compares 2 U came on – for a moment, it felt as if the audience were submerged deep underwater, or in the thick of a dream.

For a designer who likes to mix lightness and darkness, femininity with masculinity, the swan was an apt metaphor; beautiful from afar, but dangerous up close. Likewise, Rocha’s women are pretty but tough, layered-up yet simultaneously exposed.

Rocha’s previous collection was all about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Having recently given birth to her second daughter, the designer made necklaces and earrings out of teeth, and shaped red bags “like drops of blood”. In her hands, the natural, often grisly processes of baby teething and bloodshed during childbirth were transformed into something wondrous. 

Blood reappeared in the new show in the form of crystal droplets on bibs, and in red embroidery which snaked across garments like a heart monitor. The final look signalled a tragic end to the tale; a red PVC jacket worn over a cascading white dress was “the dead swan” from the fable, said Rocha.

There’s one part of The Children of Lir where the swans get caught in extreme, vicious weather and are momentarily separated on a lake. After Rocha’s show had finished, guests dispersed in the midst of a torrential downpour courtesy of Britain’s Storm Franklin. Call it pathetic fallacy, or life imitating art – but even if you step outside of Rocha’s world, you’re still living in it.