When I saw Simone Rocha's models teeter out at Fashion East's show in February 2011, I inwardly groaned. Why, oh why, would any designer worth their salt ask models to tip-toe along the catwalk? Luckily, as the first model passed my sightline I hadn't rolled my eyes so far back in my head to not see the slab of Perspex embedded in their heels, transforming the traditional mans brogue into a high-heeled wedge. Trompe l'oeil? Try the good, old-fashioned Anglo Saxon translation: trick of the eye.
In a season - in fact, a decade - of tricksy, over-designed and quite frankly fetishistically fussy footwear, Rocha's reinventions leap out for their extreme simplicity. Of course, that's the most complicated thing about them - engineering a single wedge of Perspex to perfectly elevate the foot, often appearing invisible. Rocha calls them her 'Floating' brogues, and there is a weightlessness to them, a lightness of touch.
They are also a perfect summary of Simone Rocha's design ethos, an exploration of that intersection of masculine and feminine, a tension between the sexes. She's injected mannish tailoring with the female frippery of tulle, fur and lace: here a city boy shoe becomes a wedge of childish simplicity. Ultra masculine recreated as hyper feminine, one extreme to the other.
Fashion has always been an arena to toy with notions of gender. The twenties Garçonne, immortalised in Victor Margueritte's 1922 novel, was a young woman who asserted her right to live with the same freedom as a man That right was enforced as much through her fashion - bound breasts, boyish hips and mannish cropped hair - as through smoking, drinking and staying out all hours. In the 1960s Yves Saint Laurent created trousersuits for an haute couture clientele who were still refused entry to restaurants if they were wearing them. Today, post Feminism, the controversy is less about injecting female garments with the power of masculinity than in feminising male clothing. Considering that Gaultier's skirt for men never really caught on, isn't that the final fashion taboo?