Few may get the Celtic references in Simone Rocha's SS20 collection, but the designer's Irish heritage has made her a highlight of London Fashion Week.
Paloma Faith declared the Simone Rocha SS20 collection the “best thing I’ve ever seen” before realising she was going on record and quickly qualifying it with “in clothing”. The singer was speaking backstage after the show. But she wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm for the Irish designer’s latest offering.
International editors and buyers alike, many jaded by day four of London Fashion Week, left the Alexandra Palace venue whispering in hushed tones about how moved they were by the display inside the ancient oval theatre.
The show opened with faded blue Delph embroidered onto ivory tulle and printed scallops on organza patchwork, paired with spiked ballet slippers, sandals and Perspex heels. Tailoring was introduced through embroidered lace taffetas and technical trench cloths.
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Pieces are deconstructed, with dresses balancing masculinity and femininity, and layering that appears light as feathers. Hand-macramé aprons in hay and raffia were worn as harness and dresses.
Rocha’s Irish-Chinese heritage informs much of her work. The SS20 collection owes its inspiration to the Celtic tradition of Wren Day, when wrenboys hunt a mock wren, place it on a stick and dress up to celebrate in straw clothes and masks.
Related: Sharon Wauchob SS20
The most common myth told to explain the festival involves a battle of might amongst the bird kingdom. The eagle, believed to be the greatest of all, flies as high as it can, but eventually grows tired. As the mighty bird begins to wane, the wren emerges from beneath the eagle’s wing to soar higher, outwitting all the other birds.
Easy to see why Alexandra Palace, one of the highest venues in London, on a hill overlooking the city, was deemed the perfect location for this collection.
With wren-like genius, Rocha has outsmarted many of her peers over the last few years. Ignoring mainstream consumer trends and sticking fast to her aesthetic, she has built a solid foundation for a brand that is in demand all over the world.
Nikki Creedon, owner of Havana boutique in Donnybrook, and the sole stockist for Simone Rocha in Ireland was as excited about the collection as the editors who went flocking backstage. “I thought it was incredible,” she told me.
“I loved the China blue. I loved the green. The bags were amazing. The shoes have come on this season and are much more wearable. The long silk dresses were incredible. It’s hard to pick pieces out of it because it was so layered. Some of the trench coats were amazing and there were great skirts. The craftsmanship was really outstanding. You nearly want to take every piece apart and study it.”
A cast of Irish characters including theatre actress Olwen Fouéré, Jessie Buckley, Simone Kirby, Charlene McKenna, Valene Kane and beyond with Tia Bannon and Lesley Manville paraded to the Wren.
As soon as the designer took her bow, Anna Wintour could be seen on the front row whipping off her signature shades and bolting after her. Oh, to have a bird’s-eye view on that conversation.
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