Simone Rocha S/S 17
Simone Rocha Spring/Summer 2017. Photo credit: Umberto Fratini

For a brief moment this afternoon, I thought Simone Rocha had taken a radical turn to the right. Her setting for this evening’s presentation was the beautiful Southwark Cathedral with its flying buttresses and magnificent Gothic architecture. There has been a church here since at least 606 ADE and it was a pagan worship site centuries before that. This is a place many people of many different belief systems have considered holy.

Inside this magnificent facility, Rocha starts her show by sending models down the runway dressed in perfect white lace dresses with white gloves, just as though they were going to church. Okay, so after a couple of looks the lace started getting a bit more sheer. That’s okay. Rocha carefully folded and layered the lace so that everything remained sufficiently modest. Barely. The looks, in that particular setting, were stunning and almost virginal, which something we just don’t typically say about the rebellious Irish designer.

Soon enough, though, Rocha started showing us her passion for deconstruction. It started with a grey checked masculine  suit placed precariously over a white dress in that off-centered way one has when trying to get dressed before they’re completely sober. A few looks later, the grey check becomes a dress over trousers, the hem pulled up toward the waist. The look is attractive in an uncomfortable sort of way.

Next come the floral prints, which, once again, seem innocent and ordinary enough, but then there’s a sheer black dress with large applique flowers that collides at the center of the body with a black trench coat, giving one the impression that the wearer is either about to leave or just arriving but no one is quite sure which. We see variations on this look rather often. None of the coats are completely in place, which gives a tenuous feel to the whole ensemble. Would one actually wear the clothes like this, or would one consider the styling as just a suggestion?

The deeper we get into the collection, the more Rocha commits to the deconstruction. By the time she finishes the 40-piece collection, even the ruffles are detached and hanging precariously loose. There were a couple of occasions where I found myself hoping the model wouldn’t trip over those low-hanging pieces.

Described in this way, one might get the picture of a set of clothes that look like rejects from the second-hand store. While I understand where one might get that interpretation, Rocha is so talented that these works are actually quite beautiful. Her talent for artistry has never shown brighter than with this collection and I can just imagine that somewhere in the future these are going to be exhibited in a museum.

Of course, artistry isn’t always practical, especially in fashion. Which of these looks might Rocha actually make available for purchase?  We’ll have to see. If one is expecting the styling we’ve seen here, instructions might need to accompany the ensemble. I doubt many of these looks were assembled and dressed without considerable assistance. Still, I know I would smile if someone were to walk into a meeting with their coat half-off. Done well, as it is here, the look can work.

One might be tempted to not think of the majority of pieces here as church worthy. I would encourage those with that view to consider these words from the cathedral’s website:

[This is] not only a place of worship but also of hospitality to every kind of person: princes and paupers, prelates and prostitutes, poets, playwrights, prisoners and patients have all found refuge here.

If the congregation here can be that accepting of those that are beautifully different, perhaps we should extend the same courtesy to Ms. Rocha’s clothes. I definitely think they deserve some consideration even if they force us to reconsider what is holy.

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