At a time when the fashion industry is striving – somewhat unnervingly – to decode the surge in consumer-focused, ready to buy runway shows and presentations, a small spate of London-based designers are (quite happily) occupying a unique space all of their own. Simone Rocha is one such designer, whose focus remains on driving her own creative evolution, crafting beautiful and powerfully evocative clothing in the process.
Her Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, shown at west London’s grandiose and abundantly gilded Lancaster House last weekend, is her first offering since welcoming her first child, a girl named Valentine, just three months ago. Thus, it comes as no surprise that motherhood was at the forefront of her mind, shaping both her sensibility and working process this season. “It feels grand to be a mother, as natural as it could possibly be,” she chuckled backstage after the show. “It gave me a lot of time to think and creatively, it gave me a new perspective on things,” she continued, while tracing her fingers over a delicate gold necklace that hung around her neck, aptly spelling out the word mum.
Tender and overtly tactile, bolstered by softly rounded silhouettes that swelled at the hips and ballooned at the sleeves, this was Rocha’s most personal and undoubtedly profound collection yet, exploring the subversive notions of femininity alongside her own experience and expectations of newfound motherhood.
Swelling, Swaddling, Smothering
“This whole idea of mothering manifested into layering and over layering,” revealed Rocha, referring to the billowing sheer pinafores that topped off heavy bouclé coats, or acted as a gauzy base note to lurex tweed dresses that peeled away from the shoulders. “There’s this sense of building and growing, everything becoming bigger throughout,” she added. Physicality aside, Rocha’s maternity stay in hospital also nurtured a fascination with matrons, more specifically, matrons of the 1950s, culminating in a sartorial exploration of medical garb. “There’s a surgical feeling to the romance this season,” she offered, referring to the embellished oversized smocks, tie-detail nighties and easy, hyper-relaxed tailoring that evokes that “sitting around your house in a dressing gown” kind-of-feeling.
Large, deep pockets of the Mary Poppins variety became a reoccurring motif throughout the line, seen jutting out from skirt-suits, diaphanous evening gowns and precious coats, adding yet another dimension of volume. “I wanted these clothes to be practical too,” she explains, adding: “Even if these pockets were embroidered and beaded, they ground the silhouettes and cut through all the heaviness.” Stoles, soft and padded, also became an integral part of Rocha’s maternal narrative, encasing and protecting jet-black gowns and separates with a beguiling air of Victoriana.
Rocha eschewed her signature leather bags – compact with girlish frills or trinkets – with super-sized, softly structured carryalls, rendered in fuzzy, feel-good fabrics (think, leopard print and strawberry-coloured muppet fur). “You know how in fairy-tales the stork holds a big soft bag? Well, I wanted to incorporate that idea into this collection,” she reveals of the designs, which models dragged along the floor of the runway in a faux-naive fashion. In stark contrast, Rocha also showed “matron-y, doctor bags” with rigid seams and gold-tone clasps, which added no-nonsense structure to sleek, satin pyjama sets and billowing silk dresses with piecrust frills.
Jewellery, too, spun a new thread this season; hinting at the less romanticised aspects of motherhood: endless fatigue, weariness and apprehension. Vermillion drop-stone earrings slithered down the ears of models, like single spurts of blood caused by the accidental flick of a knife, while necklaces appear snapped, as though Rocha’s woman was unravelling before our very eyes. “It was this idea that she’s supposed to be a little broken. The beading, which also appears around the breast line of some dresses as well as jewellery, is coming undone, mirroring the tweeds that are unravelling too,” Rocha notes.
A Postpartum Palette
Delicate fleshy nudes, yellow-tone creams and warm charcoals neutralised a collection that pulsated with Rocha’s signature claret, black and bruised lilacs “that kind of pale lilac colour that the matrons used to wear in hospitals during the 1950s”. Yet, nothing appeared more desirable than the single dalliance of bubble-gum pink, materialised in a belted, drop-shoulder coat that was crafted from a specially selected tinsel yarn that shone subtly under the glare of the runway lights. “It’s a lot about the texture of it, something hard and almost course against something very soft,” adds Rocha, surmising. “When I approached this collection I felt I had more to say. I really wanted to develop things and I think I’m more aware of the finer details. It’s been quite the experience.”