We break down the elements that make up the designer’s SS16 offering – a sugary collection with S&M overtones
Earlier this year, Simone Rocha was in Japan, working on a project with Dover Street Market Ginza and feeling – in her own words – quite weird. She found out she was pregnant, and the weirdness she experienced in herself flowed into her work as she gravitated towards “trippy” vintage prints from Kyoto’s markets. That sensation of strangeness brought an exciting unfamiliarity to the collection Rocha showed under the ornately gilded ceiling of Lancaster House on Saturday evening, taking her house codes forward into new territory, somewhere between sugary confection and bondage-laced fever dream.
Always skipping the standardised press release, Rocha’s show notes present themselves in the shape of slightly disembodied but poetic keywords, almost haiku-like in a way. This time, the elusive poem format took on an extra mysterious air with things like “Kyoto, Kinbaku, the moss forest,” “Rope, bow, ties, bound, found”, “Flowers and cars” before ending on the beautiful “I saw a bride in the bamboo forest”. They became an organic extension of the collection, and a beautiful window into her intriguing new language and evolving universe.
ARAKI BONDAGE BABES IN THE BAMBOO FOREST
A long-time fan of Nobuyoshi Araki’s work, Rocha – seven months pregnant at this point – said backstage that being in Japan had made her feel closer to the photographer. “I was really just interested (in bondage) because it was a contrast to all the feminine and really classic beauty things, like the flowers and petals and nature. Like, man-made and nature.” From the invitation’s imagery of a glorious meadow seen through chicken wire that translated to a romantic khaki dress, or the way macramé straps, silk ribbons and strings of knotted-braided jelly plastic were tied across sweetly pink, Japanese cloud-patterned dresses in a nod to Araki’s work, it felt like there was a comment in here on the force of Mother Nature and the power of womanhood, where at any moment the girls could break free of their perversely pleasurable restraints.
“I was really just interested (in bondage) because it was a contrast to all the feminine and really classic beauty things, like the flowers and petals and nature. Like, man-made and nature” – Simone Rocha
A DARK WEB OF INTRIGUE
Watching Rocha’s twisted daydream unfold, you couldn’t help but think of the web of mythical secret tunnels that apparently run under Lancaster House and connect the London palaces and various St James’s haunts so royals could once slip out unnoticed for clandestine meetings. (Two minutes away from Lancaster House, The Stafford has a bricked-up archway off their wine cellar hiding one of these passageways, apparently still furnished with Persian rugs and sconces to show the way.) In a similar way, Rocha’s collection was imbued with hidden messages and subtext, not just in the bondage ropes that criss-crossed the body but in the tales of dark desire interlaced in her pieces.
FINDING BEAUTY AND PROGRESSION IN CONFUSION
Up until now, Rocha has been working with a set of codes that she established early on in her brand’s fledgling stage. There’s often as sense that you’ve stepped into a slightly subversive take on an Anne Boleyn-era portrait as Rocha plays with ladylike or historic silhouettes versus rebellious girls. This time, there were things that felt familiar from that – the exaggerated hips she likes to build, the romance, the crystals that delicately embellish necklines – but she brought an electrifying unfamiliarity to her vocabulary with things like sponged neoprene fashioned into “sad bows because I feel so weird” or the ever-so-faintly psychedelic floral wallpaper prints. “There’s a lot of transition going on at the moment,” Rocha said backstage of her new direction for SS16 and the girlhood-womanhood vibe at play. “There were a lot of mixed feelings about femininity but this time, rather than just being like, ‘Ah, there’s the girl’, it was a little confused,” she noted. It was ultimately this beautiful confusion that took her brand forward, and looking at how she dissected and shapeshifted the kimono here in a fresh and non-obvious way, it felt like the perfect symbol of the metamorphosis of Simone Rocha.