The innovative Irish designer gives us an exclusive tour of her inaugural London boutique
Since Simone Rocha found herself a place on the London show schedule in 2010, she has established herself as one of fashion's most beloved designers with remarkably impressive speed. Her dedication to craftsmanship, coupled with an emotive understanding of contemporary womanhood (alongside an industry-wide reputation for her unassuming Irish charm) has resulted in some of the past few years' most celebrated collections – evident in the accumulation of over 200 international retailers (no small feat for an independent buisness). This weekend, she celebrated what must be the greatest achievement a young designer can manage: opening an independent boutique, on London's Mount Street.
A double-decker space backing onto Hyde Park and just a stone's throw away from Céline and Marc Jacobs (her former boss), Rocha herself was responsible for the design of the entire interior – and it shows. Whether it's the perspex furniture displaying pearl brooches, or the church-like fragrance that scents the store ("I love the ceremony of it," she muses), every element tunes into the broader aesthetic of the brand. The result is a warm, modern romanticism without the stereotypical accoutrements of overwrought girlishness that can plague womenswear designers with a strong affinity for florals and frills. Here, we speak to Rocha about her inspirations, alongside exclusive imagery of the store's construction in process.
Places and spaces
"I wasn’t always interested in interior design," explains Rocha, "but I’ve always been interested in materials in space, which why I wanted to do it myself. There is a place in Provence called Chateau la Coste, which is a vineyard with a sculpture garden. There’s a Louise Bourgeois spider there, and Calder pieces, and I love the way they are all set into the landscape. So, I wanted to do that and have pieces in little rooms and things that can move around." And, through regular in-store collaborations with retailers like Dover Street Market and Colette, Rocha seems to have achieved a thoroughly enviable spatial awareness.
"I wanted it to be an interesting space for people to walk into," she explains, "so that they can really see the clothes and feel like, ‘wow that’s beautiful. I want to pick that up, I want to try that on.’ Just to feel and see my inspirations; not only in the materials of the clothes but all of the textures. I want people to be interested and excited, and for it to be a playful and interactive experience." With organically-shaped tables (“little monsters – they could have just grown here”) created by Janina Pedan sitting alongside classic marble plinths designed by her father, a giant metallic cage housing looks from the recent collection and a giant, pastel pink onyx desk designed by Rocha, there is a brilliant mix of the hyper-modern with the traditional. What Rocha has managed to do is create a space that is simultaneously inviting and open; allowing a flexibility for future projects and collaborations with other artists. As she says, "I’m a young label, I want to keep evolving. I wanted a space that could evolve as well."
Giant, bleeding cornices
Rocha's collections often place classicism within a contemporary framework, and so too does the store. The giant column punctuatuating the room ("actually it's holding up the building," she reveals) is combined with plaster cornices envisioned by Rocha's fair hand – "I wanted something that was classic but when you really looked at it, it became kind of grotesque: giant bleeding roses,” – and, somehow, it all makes sense. This subversion of classicism and femininity is key to Rocha’s work; her A/W15 collection, a beautiful exhibition of pearls, florals and ruffles, was inspired by (and incorporated) the tapestries of the late Louise Bourgeois. “I’m obsessed with her,” she says. “Her work is grotesque and beautiful and sensual and human all at the same time; it’s magical.”
A family affair
This is the overarching sentiment of the store: a humanity that is rarely achieved in retail environments. The space is distinctly personable; the music that plays is a playlist she and her boyfriend compiled for a birthday party, the giant, floor-length mirror an antique heirloom, the Francis Bacon triptych on the wall a family treasure. With an assortment of familial involvement – something that has been key to Rocha's buisness, with her mother working on distrubution, her brother curating her show music and her father (recently retired fashion designer John Rocha) advising on the industry – she has managed to create a space that is simultaneously chic and inviting, and she's done it with an admirable independence from fashion conglomerates. During a time when large-scale investment is facilitating some particularly elaborate, and expensive, projects from luxury brands, it is both refreshing and inspiring to see a young female designer achieving such success on her own terms – and hopefully, for Rocha, this is just the beginning.