5 Minutes With Designer John Rocha On Fashion, Family And Life

  • by IMAGE

Designer John Rocha talks exclusively to IMAGE about fashion, family and the future.

As a child, I had dreams of becoming a footballer, but sadly when I stopped growing taller, so did my dreams.

I always had an interest in fashion, from the wonderful mohair suit my grandmother made for me to a funky Afghan coat I once wore, but the opportunity to study psychiatric nursing arose when I was 17. This was my chance to move from Hong Kong to the UK, to get as close to London as I could, to be in the same country as the Beetles, and where everything seemed to be happening, and so I jumped at it.

My children [Max, Zoe and Simone] come to me for business advice from time to time, and of course I support them in whatever way I can. They have each done what I hoped they would; try their best and follow their dreams.

Rocha with daughter Simone at The Fashion Awards in The Royal Albert Hall in December. Getty Images

The world wide web has had such a huge impact on everything, including fashion, both positively and negatively. Everything is so much faster now - communication, the seasons in fashion, people’s expectations and reactions. In the old system press and buyers saw the collections at fashion week, but the rest of the world didn’t have access for another six months. I think it's really important to be aware of what’s going in the parallel world of social media. I use Instagram but I’m not an active user, more of a follower.

We work really hard to make sure that all the RJR.JohnRocha collections across the Debenhams stores reflect my design principles. I have always loved the balance between hard and soft, masculine and feminine, fragile and strong, and have explored this in textures and details throughout my work. There is a lot of beautiful handwork, embellishment and embroidery in many collections right now, which I love. Texture and detail have always been strong elements of my own work.

I have always loved Yohji Yamamoto’s designs, and I think the work he is doing now is wonderful.

This year I hope for good health and happiness for all the people I love, as I do every new year. I am hoping to visit Bhutan in 2018. I have never been but I have heard it's amazing. I first visited the Himalayas a couple of years ago, and I found it so inspirational, and the people were incredible, so I am really looking forward to going back to that region.

My only mantra is to do the best you can and always respect other people.

I love so many things about Ireland. The culture, whether it's music from U2 to Paul Brady; the wonderful words of Yeats and Heaney; the visual arts (I particularly love the work of Sean Scully), then there is the fishing and the mayfly on Lough Mask. And of course, the people. I have been lucky enough to make so many great friends here over the years.

If my home was on fire, I'd probably just take with me the rings I wear all the time. The big silver square signet that I designed myself, and a beautiful old green jade ring I bought in Hong Kong many many years ago.

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