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The LIGHT Issue with Simone Rocha

Veiled in a cloud about to take flight

Raw and ready to take flight: Simone Rocha’s spring-summer ’23 collection caused a lasting sensation of rapture at London Fashion Week. Descending on the history-steeped halls of London’s Old Bailey, Rocha embodied a sense of healing in the hallowed halls through her exquisite work. This season brought together both Rocha’s toughness and her fragility in an empowering statement of anti-dichotomy within fashion. From veils—nodding to the designer’s upbringing in Catholic Ireland—to parachute woven and harnessed garments, Rocha juxtaposed fragments of petticoats with utilitarian pieces and black tailoring for a Wright Brothers fantasy effect. The result? A stunning display of non-gendered beauty, evoking an emotional impact (and a standing ovation) within the tight-lipped front-rowers. 

It’s a fitting response to a designer who heralds a new era in the fashion industry—one that celebrates individuality, creativity and empowerment. Translating the societal emotions of the zeitgeist into wearable art, Rocha’s body of work is nothing short of remarkable. Her spring-summer ’23 collection is not only a statement of fashion, but also a statement of the need to connect with our past and move forward with resilience. So, more than a decade after we first spoke with the designer, Glamcult arranged a long overdue a check-in with Rocha to explore the collection and discuss the collisions and tensions that confront a designer in 2023. 

Your design aesthetic is uniquely you. Can you tell us how you honed it?
It all started at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, where I did my first year. I mainly began my study with more of a fine art focus, but then quickly moved into fashion. My design has always been caught within a tension between two things—whether it be masculine and feminine, hard and soft, tradition and reality, or natural and man-made.

The Simone Rocha label has become synonymous with the reframing of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ within the dichotomy of the fashion landscape. Is that a conscious thing?
My clothes have always been about telling a story or being influenced by emotions. Within this, I can create broad collections—so naturally, they feel inclusive. Alongside this, it has always been important for me to reflect that within the clothes themselves. This way all different types of people can wear them if they connect to the collection’s ideas.

You mention being ‘caught within a tension’. Blending historical references with contemporary and utilitarian elements is certainly a tension. How do you approach that merging of aesthetics?
This merging is in itself what I find interesting when considering fabrication, silhouettes and garments.

You’ve done some incredible collaborations. Do you approach creative partnerships differently from your collections?
I love collaborations when you come together with someone else’s experience and expertise to work to bring my ideas somewhere new. It can be a challenge initially, but ultimately it’s an interesting and positive experience.

Do you have a dream collaboration?
Of course! But I can’t say…

How do you envision an environmentally conscious fashion landscape?
For me, as an independent label, it’s all about transparency: when, how and where everything is made. As well as this, it’s about trying to avoid as much waste as possible.

Your spring-summer ’23 collection showcased a beautiful juxtaposition of elements and silhouettes. Can you tell us the inspiration behind it?
It was about harnessing a feeling, harnessing the silhouettes and grounding a lightness.

We loved the unexpectedness of presenting at the Old Bailey. What led you there? And why?
The weight of the room. I was able to put the collection into context through the cold green marble walls of the space.

The veils—signifying so many different things for different people—were the ultimate showstoppers. What was the initial concept here?For me, the veils were almost like clouds. I felt like this collection was about to take flight.

How does your approach to accessories differ from clothing?
The accessories are built based on the narrative of the show, so from this we developed giant harness rucksacks influenced by the utilitarian aesthetic. Alongside this, we continued developing our signature Perspex egg bag to be embellished, almost like a Fabergé egg. The bags are integral to each collection.

Does this approach also apply to your footwear design? The ballet pumps became a moment within the collection.
There has always been a collision and tension in the clothes in every piece, and it felt natural to bring that also into the design of the shoes. From the beginning I was clashing Perspex with brogues. However, now this is evolving into, as you say, ballerinas with rubber technical soles.

What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
Your work should make you happy.

Something you wish more people knew?
That fashion is a real team effort, working with many different and talented people to bring what I do to reality.

A goal for Simone Rocha’s future?
To keep doing good work that also makes me inspired and excited. 

Words by Grace Powell

Photography by Oscar Lindqvist
Styling by Kazami Ohsawa
Make-up by Sunao Takahashi
Hair by Christos Bairabas
Set Design by Annie Alvin
Casting by Oliwia Jancerowicz
Modelled by Lili Seroussi & Alfie — Anti Agency
Y’sohnt — wmodels
Heloisa — Wilhelmina London
All Clothing Simone Rocha Spring-Summer ’23