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Backstage at Simone Rocha SS17
Backstage at Simone Rocha SS17Photography Anabel Navarro Llorens

Simone Rocha subverts sacramental dress for SS17

At Southwark Cathedral, the designer puts a slightly kinky spin on baptismal gowns and communion dresses

Fashion can be a lot of things – it can be fun, theatrical, poetic, political and provocative. Other times however, it can be just plain beautiful, as it was yesterday at Simone Rocha’s SS17 runway show. Staged at Southwark Cathedral, the show saw models walk down the catwalk, or rather aisle, clad in festoons of lace and organza, crystals and pearls. For a few minutes, you forgot about the crowds of people and photographers outside and left behind the traffic-jammed streets.

This season, Rocha said she was inspired by a recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland, which saw photographs depicting African farm workers from Jackie Nickerson’s Terrain series juxtaposed with works from the gallery’s permanent collection, including paintings of convent girls by William John Leech. “There was a photo of someone wrapped in white plastic working in a field next to a painting of Irish girls – that did it,” she said in an interview with Vogue.

She also cited sacramental vestments such as baptismal gowns and communion dresses as inspiration, along with wedding dresses, which in retrospect made the Southwark Cathedral setting and aisle runway all the more appropriate. Staying true to her romantic signature, the designer employed broderie anglaise and cotton poplin, sheer organza and tulle embroidered with flowers, as well as Prince of Wales check and gingham. 

But despite the liturgical inspiration, there was also an undercurrent of kink: styled by Dazed creative director Robbie Spencer, models donned patent Perspex-heeled wellington boots and lace trim rubber gloves. Like last season’s slightly twisted take on clothes associated with motherhood such as matron smocks and nursing bras, these pieces embody another one of Rocha’s signatures: the gentle subversion of an innocent theme.