Show Report

Show Report: Simone Rocha A/W 16 Womenswear

by Lou Stoppard on 21 February 2016

Lou Stoppard reports on the Simone Rocha A/W 16 womenswear show.

Lou Stoppard reports on the Simone Rocha A/W 16 womenswear show.

For a while you'd have been forgiven for calling Simone Rocha's work girly, sweet or even prim. Sure, it was never light, but it felt optimistic, youthful, cheerful. For A/W 16 darkness had crept in. This wasn't cartoon tragedy or melodramatic drama for the sake of show ambience - more a pragmatic exploration of life, warts and all. Mess. Wear-and-tear. Ageing. You saw in it the way fabrics frayed, or in the way hems were left in tatters, pockets sagged and fur stoles dragged along the floor.

While it's tiresome to endlessly analyse the private lives of female designers for clues as to the ethos and influences behind their collections - male designers rarely get that treatment - one couldn't help but think of the fact that Rocha is now a mother. They always say that's the most wonderful but unsettling and disruptive of times - seismic changes in terms of priorities, lifestyle and ones sense of self. As a mother, one embraces mess, one becomes less vain, one accepts mistakes. In other words, one does what ones can, and focuses on making do. One couldn't help but think of that as the models came out in with their otherwise strict garments - belted coats or prim skirt suits and cocktail frocks - layered, disheveled and unravelling. This was classic Rocha- see that signature pink or the now familiar sheers and lace - but new, changed and grown-up, as if affected by some unstated change. Indeed, the show notes made that link firmly - 'Birth. Baptism. Rebirth. Mess. Swaddling. Enveloping. Smothering. Mothering.’ Highly personal things to Rocha right now.

Rocha is at her best when she designs what she knows. At the start of her career, she won acclaim for pondering femininity, drawing on her own experiences as a young woman. Now, she's exploring new chapters in her life. That sense of reality, underneath the tulle fantasies and decadent touches, such as fur and sparkling jewels, is what makes her work so special. It's authentic.

For all the nods to Victorian dress, it was the undertone of accepting and embracing the realities and difficulties of life as a woman in 2016 - of being a mother and a designer, of working while caring for a family, of battling through city routines - that made this so strong. Disorder and imperfection were celebrated. As a woman, it takes guts to show your weakness, or reveal your vulnerabilities. There's strength in fragility - and Simone Rocha was especially strong for A/W 16. This was her best collection yet.

Lou Stoppard


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