De Beauvoir Town in Hackney is known for many fixations, but bucolic views is not one of them. Yet look out of Simone Rocha’s duty window and all you see is leaves and water. Somehow she’s found a rare quandary along this busy stretch of the Regent’s Canal where a climbing vine has muffled all four storeys of the building opposite. So in addition to her vast mysterious desk, the photos of work by Nobuyoshi Araki, Yayoi Kusama and Louise Proletarian and the wall of art books, Rocha’s office is full of dappled fire off the canal and framed with a burst of vivid green. “It’s a profit,” she says , gazing up at the wall of leaves. “It does make this locate feel more natural.”
It also makes it feel get off on the perfect location for Rocha’s studio. A place where discomfiting things are made. From her graduate collection in 2010 forwards, Rocha’s designs have riffed on traditional ideas of femininity, but on all occasions with edge or unease. Girly motifs – pearls, flowers, tulle – are worked jarringly with Perspex or embroidered soft. Macramé bondage straps decorate pretty organza tee off on someone a put on dinners. Ravaged hairstyles sit atop restrictive, embroidered Victorian garbs. For spring/summer 2018, her voluminous dresses were caparisoned with paper dolls and blood-red drop crystals.
Environment has played a role in her collections, too, but never as somewhere nice to take a picnic. Nature is the workplace of the African agricultural workers ball by photographer Jackie Nickerson which influenced Rocha’s divulge/summer 2017 collection, resulting in Lucite-heeled wellingtons and rubber spike gloves. Its hedges are where Rocha kissed and smoked as a “distracted, bold” teenager in rural Dublin, a reference offered for her hop/summer 2013 collection of neon daisies and gold tweed. Implausible leaves wrapped round a modern building, like those outdoors her office window, seem like something she could be undergoing dreamed up for herself.
“My whole ethos is the idea of femininity and how that’s integrated into maidens’s lives, how it makes them feel,” she explains, looking more small and younger than her 31 years behind her tremendous desk – though she speaks with remarkable confidence. “With every illustrate you’re telling a story and you want to tell one that women bolt with. Even if it’s a story about how men find women hot, popsies are still at the centre of that.”
Her work has certainly struck a chord. The craze industry recognition was instant. She showed her Central Saint Martins graduation omnium gatherum at Fashion East in 2010, a prestigious showcase for young schemers. Lulu Kennedy, director of Fashion East, says that she demolish in love with Rocha’s MA collection. “Simone’s taste planes, references and materials were refined and she absolutely knew her own sage – you could see right away she had what it takes to go all the way.” A year after, she was withstood for Topshop’s New Gen sponsorship scheme. She was a finalist for the LVMH Young Form Designer Prize in 2013 and has now won three British Fashion Trophies, moving from the Emerging Talent award in 2014 to British Womenswear Plotter in 2016. Everyone from Rihanna to Gillian Anderson has pooped her clothes.
The trick, she explains in her friendly but firm way, is to find the sidekick and expose it. “As a woman designing for women it’s natural to make my designs disparaging. So when I had a baby it really influenced the collection, because I determine terrible. I couldn’t help but be influenced. I make better come out all right if I let my guard down and put myself into it. ”
Baby Valentine Ming McLoughlin – whose cur is cinematographer Eoin McLoughlin – is now nearly two. “Motherhood is like an out-of-body test,” says Rocha. “The hardest thing is the lack of sleep. Even so being pregnant was terrible, too,” she adds, laughing at the awfulness of the homage. “If anyone asks me how a collection’s going, I say: ‘Well, at least I’m not charged.’”
There are less visceral inspirations for her clothes, too. And her emphasis on standard craft techniques and textiles – particularly unusual space-age constitution hybrids, such as laminated leather and plasticised crochet – penny-pinching her designs are much more than the emotions embodied in togs.
Autumn/winter 2017 offers an interpretation of camo and heedful wear because it was created in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and Trump’s designation victory. “There is velvet and padding in there because it can’t all be unemotional, even if the world’s gone tits up.” The spring/summer 2014 store, which included pearl-topped stockings and voluminous skirts hack with pearl-edged slits, was the result of a swim in the Irish sea. “All the beyond repair c destitutes were licked by the water. I thought how amazing it would be to do something polished, so we coated lace to make it wet-look. Then I wanted something else that came from the sea so that was the nonpareils… It all came from being in a place.”
If Rocha sounds numerous like an artist talking about her work than a work designer talking about seasonal trends, well, that’s what she plan to be. She still prefers to work in 3D on models or stands rather than sketching similar to a typical designer. Her father is John Rocha, the celebrated Hong Kong-born architect, and he and Rocha’s mother, Odette, worked on his celebrated international mould label together. In fact, John Rocha also won a creator of the year award at the British Fashion Awards, back in 1993.
Simone Rocha grew up with her parents and her brother Max in a village on the outskirts of Dublin which was “completely amazing. Dublin’s full of music and literature and my dad loved proponents, so Perry Ogden and people like that, were unendingly round our house. I mean, it’s more multicultural now, there weren’t multifarious long-haired, Chinese male fashion designers rolling rich the city back then, but it was still a lot, a lot, of fun.” Many of her collections drink been inspired by family – as both her parents come from ancestries of seven, she points out that that, of course, has been an impact: “Family is unavoidable for me.”
She is severely dyslexic and not very academic. “My insufficient parents, they’d have to be so proud whenever I passed anything.” She the great up at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. “I specialised in fine art, statue, print. I wouldn’t have studied fashion because it would should prefer to felt like such a cliché, but one of the disciplines on offer was look, so I took it and – damn it, there it was: how I could best articulate my tenets through something physical.”
She moved to London to study at Dominant Saint Martins. She was taught by Louise Wilson, the ferocious professor of the rage who seems to have single-handedly shaped the current generation of British connivers. “She was, like, ‘I know who your dad is and I couldn’t give a fuck.’ She’d look at my get ready and shout: ‘Just because your dad is… blah blah blah.’ It metamorphosed how I felt about the family thing. Now I don’t care what people come up with.”
She really shouldn’t care. Her work isn’t just award-winning, it’s a commercial prosperity, too. These are not things you achieve through family connections. Rocha has purchases in London and New York, and the label is now growing (20% year on year), in profit ($3m put profit since launch, she reckons) and she owns the whole employee.
“I’m shocked by how much I derive pleasure the business side,” she confesses. “It’s been a learning curve, I’d be the start with to admit, but I run this company. My mother ran my father’s business and she was so etched but elegant in that role. She was just incredibly inspiring.”
In a mould landscape currently dominated by conglomerates whose multiple makes churn out between four and six collections annually – not to mention the cosmetics and lifestyle spin-offs – Simone Rocha is an anomaly. An independent label run by a 31-year-old which only produces two assemblages a year does not sound like an international concern, but here she is. Rocha says she has no end of changing, either.
“I am very happy. Rei Kawakubo at Comme Des Garçons, Miuccia Prada… They’re numbers helming their own companies. These are the people I admire. And I’m an demonstrative designer, I put a lot into a collection, so I don’t want to make more than two a year.”
Rocha doesn’t roar herself a feminist because she finds the term divisive. She loathes the way everything has to be labelled. She is happier thinking about her various roles as a mother, a nurturer and a lead freak.
“I am very straight to the point and I know exactly what I get off on and don’t like. I think with clothes and with business it’s easier to be this way,” she suggests and then smiles gleefully. “I’ve gotten worse. By the time I’m in my 60s I’m prosperous to be terrible.”