Masculine versus feminine. Next to 'good girl gone bad' and 'the new black', that's about the oldest cliche in the fashion lexicon. What's more, it's been pretty thoroughly mined by the fashion greats - Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were the innovators, and many a fine imitator since. It takes true talent to add something new and interesting to the debate.
For spring/summer 2012 Simone Rocha graduated from Fashion East to her first own-label show, and took the tricky challenge of the masculine-feminine divide as her starting point. It's something she's been examining for a while, ripping open neat blazers and fusing them with fragile tulle and forcing mannish brogue onto tip-toes supported by wedges of transparent perspex. Those were the stand-out pieces from her final Fashion East outing, and they appeared again this season, albeit in laced latex. Don't they sound much more clever than last season's ponyskin numbers? That's a neat summary of this entire Rocha collection - examining her aesthetic trademarks to date, and refining them. It's a remarkably mature approach for such a young talent, and this season it paid off.
If, in the past, Rocha has skewed to the macho side of the boy-girl equation, today she made some excursions into unabashed girly prettiness. There were lashings of lace, snippets of chantilly fused with tulle on easy t-shirts or sandwiched between layers of transparent PVC for neat A-line coats. They were ruffled into asymmetric peplums, their floral patterns then filched and embroidered onto tulle - in a new feeling for colour, these came not only in Rocha's trademark black and off-white, but in vibrant scarlet, cerise and rich emerald.
Unlike previous seasons, there was a new sense of polish to what Rocha was proposing. In the past, her edges have often been too raw - edginess is fine, but Rocha's work sometimes skewed into the unfinished, or even studenty. Her two-season training amidst Lulu Kennedy's Fashion East roster has evidently paid dividends: this was as polished a performance as we could expect from the very best of London Fashion Week. No wonder Kennedy herself was sat beaming front-row centre, and lead the crowd in the chorus of well-deserved cheers.