For someone who insists she’s “terrible at history”, Simone Rocha painted a very clever Elizabethan picture for AW14, tapping into the powerful aura of the women who shaped the period. This was no stale costume drama: the era’s gilded opulence and exaggerated jewel-encrusted fantasies on the female form were rewritten as a punkish poem to a modern girl, with embroidered PVC lace, conceal/reveal silhouettes and restrained black ruffles, worn with tough-pretty pointed flats. “Flat shoes give you strength,” Rocha says. “Heels are so dated.” Inspiration sprung from a visit to the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Elizabeth I & Her People. “What really struck me with the portraits was how still all these women were and how young they looked, but there was a real strength to it,” says Rocha. Here, the designer talks Elizabethan obsessions.
“One of the things I find so amazing about that time is the way women wore so many layers. I think that’s quite sexual and provocative – the whole ritual of putting clothes on your body rather than showing it off, emphasising what’s underneath as well as the ritual of stripping off each layer. There’s also a real strictness to it with the corseting. Even the bust is highlighted in a very strict way. It’s quite severe.”
“I think Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn were women striving to be equal to men. I think you can really feel that from their portraits – the power and the rebellion and that kind of punkish feeling. That’s what I wanted to add to the clothes. I wanted them to have that rebelliousness and strength and almost offset the fact that they’re under all this regalia. I really enjoy playing with ladylike codes and making them feel provocative or slightly ugly or a little bit misunderstood, and things that can look prim but are actually kind of subversive. I love making people think.”
For SS15, Rocha transformed dresses and raincoats with soft marabou fur and tantalisingly transparent organza. See it below: