Amongst her family and friends, Simone Rocha's Chinese name is Ming Ming. In her sparsely presented show notes, she sweetly refers to 'Team Ming'. Backstage, a slightly tearful and overwhelmed Rocha spoke of her love for her studio team, her family and ancestry, her main inspirations this season.
Simone Rocha candidly sweeps up those around her - a panoply of contributors surround her, as will become apparent in her upcoming issue of A Magazine Curated By. In the process of putting together this magazine, the designer delved deeper into her Chinese background, considering traditions and familial rites in new ways.
Rocha's dresses are often worn to functions; the mix of modesty and modernity in her designs can suit weddings, christenings, even funerals for the fashion pack. Her clothes always have a sense of ceremony; this resonated this season. During the Qing Ming ceremony, referenced in the show notes and the image on the invitation, Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to pray, clean and make ritual offerings.
Thick, wallpapery brocade fabrics and gauzy embroidered florals took shape in coats and dresses with signature Simone sleeves in broad puffs. Elaborately trimmed veils hung heavily from hats. Rocha explained the inspiration for these as Tang-dynasty, but to me they looked like mournful bee-keeping hats. I'm not totally grasping at straws here; Rocha's store in New York holds a large perspex sculpture by Chinese artist Ren Ri, featuring real honeycomb and deceased bees.
Rocha takes inspiration from art in many sources. Recently, having found a copy of a 16th century portrait of a concubine in a market in Hong Kong, her team had been thinking about reinterpreting painting, imitating the imitation. Thus, prints and hand-painted replicas of these images were presented on silk, overlaid with black gauze. On white cotton dresses, thin red embroidery denoted line drawings of women's faces with skinny, arched eyebrows.
The show closed to raucous applause, enough to spark aforementioned tears in Rocha's eyes. It's as clear as her crystal chandelier earrings that the designer will continue to be one of London's most loved for the foreseeable future.