From goth band tee to cute cherub tattoo, the designer handed her logo over to a bunch of creative friends and let them have their way with it
Where last season Simone Rocha took off in flight, kitting models out in pouffy parachute jackets and gowns, for AW23 she was back on terra firma. Planting her feet firmly in the ground at February’s LFW shows, the London-based designer debuted a collection indebted to the age-old traditions of ‘Lughnasadh’, or, for those of us not so au fait with the Irish language, the country’s annual harvest festival.
Digging into its traditions and rituals, Rocha turned out an offering of her signature voluminous smocked dresses and feminine tailoring stuffed and embroidered with straw, while her famously chunky platform shoes came with details ripped from Irish dancing styles. It was a typical convergence of dark meets light, and hard meets soft – cornerstones of her creative output from the very day dot.
One thing she didn’t tether back down to earth, though, was her logo. Instead, the designer – whose name is normally plastered above her Mount Street store and stitched into the nape of her garments in recognisable ‘Typewriter Elite’ font – decided to hand it over to a bunch of Irish artists, creatives, and friends she admires and let them have their way with it.
Among them were Oscar Torrans, a Bray-born, London-based designer who “collected images of Irish stones and collaged them together to make the SR”, and Edward Quarmby, who takes Rocha’s markings and turns them into something that could easily be scrawled across the chest of a heavy metal band tee. “My aim was to create something for the goth character I always feel at Simone’s shows,” they tell us.
Elsewhere, Daniel David Freeman recalled the time Rocha released a set of temporary tattoo transfers – “I liked the idea of a baby angel that’s written Simone Rocha on their arm for fun knowing they’re going to get told off later,” the creative explains – while Toby Evans drew inspiration from the embroidery and beading she litters each of her collections with.
With the resulting logos dotted throughout Rocha’s AW23 offering – layered under tulle and fluttering on hems – we caught up with some of the people taking part in the project to hear more about their designs.
Oscar Torrans is a Bray-born, London-based creative director whose work spans music, fashion, and art, as well as the founder of Passage Tomb – an art project and store which creates books, objects, and clothing that explores the idea of Irish consciousness from pre-Christianity until now. First coming across Rocha’s work through fashion mags and friends studying the medium, he describes her work as “The perfect dichotomy of powerful and delicate”. To create his take on her logo, he “collected images of Irish stones and collaged them together”, drawing inspiration from ancient Irish standing stones and dolmens. “I have always been drawn to the rich history of sacred Irish stones and stone circles, as symbols of the everlasting that emanate a current of wonder from the island for thousands of years,” he explains. “I was struck by the harmony of the stones supporting each other. The duality of strength and vulnerability reminded me of Simone’s work – dominant powerful structures delicately balanced.”
Ana Projects first came across Rocha’s work when the designer presented her SS13 show. “It featured an installation of living plants which resembled a lane in Dublin,” they recall. “It wove her personal memories and historical connections together with something tangible, which is something that’s seen throughout all her collections.” Initially intent on creating an animation for the logo, they made it into a rubber stamp, squelched it into red ink and hammered it down onto 24 paper frames, which were then scanned to begin the animation process. “But what Simone actually connected with was the layout sheet which had all the prints together in a grid,” they reveal, adding that instead of the cartoon they had envisaged, this early component itself became the final design. “I think it connected to a part of her world in which we share an interest – in touch and physicality. The joy of the handmade, whether that’s embroidery, drawing, painting, or printing.”
Irish-Mexican creative director and graphic designer Christopher Lawson first came across Rocha growing up in Dublin, and became aware of the brand soon after its conception. “A common thread that I read in her work is a play and negotiation between the hard and the soft,” he explains, “whether that’s in the way she navigates her dual Irish and Hong Kong heritage, her contrasted motifs, materials, and symbols, or most recently, how she plays with the gender of her menswear.” With a penchant for the point where high and low culture clash or converge, Lawson looked to lettering on (Irish musician) Van Morrison’s artwork for 1972 album Saint Dominic’s Preview, which mashed together mediaeval and psychedelic references. “My own take on this uses a rather punk-looking William Morris capital and an ancient Celtic poem about the winter season in Neue Haas Grotesk. That duality that I mentioned sits neatly alongside the Simone Rocha sensibility.”
DANIEL DAVID FREEMAN
Daniel David Freeman has been friends with Rocha “for a while now”, with her work continuing to inspire the London-based artist whose practice sits somewhere between art and illustration (“It’s full of contradictions, and doesn’t stay the same for very long. It’s a bit chaotic, but quite neat,” he explains). Digging into a folder of images he’d been saving up, Freeman came across an image of an angel when this project first came his way. “I started playing around with it but thought a cupid would be more fun,” he recalls. “I really like low rent versions of famous paintings, so roughly scribbled a few versions of the Raphael cupids and ended up with this one” – a cute, cartoony version he likens to something that could become a tattoo. “I really liked when Simone did those transfer tats, so wanted to play with that, and maybe fashion’s interaction with tattoos as a whole,” Freeman adds. “So this design really ticked that box.”