#SuzyLFW Simone Rocha: Focusing On Her Family’s Heritage

A photograph of a crowd of people in a modern Chinese city of high-rise buildings and casual sportswear was the invitation for the Simone Rocha Spring/Summer 2019 show. But once inside the grandeur of London’s Lancaster House, the designer’s dreams of the Orient became far more romantic.

Graceful concubines walked the runway, their faces veiled by hats and wearing dresses scattered with scarlet flowers. Instead of the little, bound feet of Chinese history, the footwear was of fluffy, flat sandals. These are no longer fashion news, but Simone has always made footwear the pearl of her creative powers.

“I was looking at my own family and thinking that I am half Chinese, so I decided to reflect on that,” the designer said. Her father, John Rocha – a long-serving, Irish-based designer – was originally from Hong Kong and has always offered a counterpoint to her mother’s Irish history.

Simone visits China at least twice a year to see her cousins and burnish her Far Eastern heritage. But as a Chinese model walked the runway in a chiffon dress with embroideries of tiny flowers, or a full-sleeved, white top with an overlay of fluffy red branches, you could feel that most of the designer’s inspiration came from inside her own head. Or in some cases, the head was out there as a portrait of a Chinese woman patterning the front of a dress.

“I wanted it to be very playful, so that’s why at the end it became more joyful,” Simone explained. Yet true to her mixed background, the designer did not have one single inspiration, but rather many references that she described as “an interpretation of the 1800s and portrait paintings from the 15th century”.

Those Old World ideas included experimental computer-aided design on some pieces and traditional hand-painting on others. The last few dresses, which Simone described as “wallpaper brocades”, were worn with long veils draped over “hat towers”.

There is a rich vein of past glory in this designer’s work, but also a whimsical modernism, especially in her “tulle trapped balls” – black outfits puffed up in shape or the same idea in white.

Yet it was her Chinese heritage that came to the fore in both silhouette and decoration for the next season.