Dressed in a baggy black sweater, a tiny silver leather skirt and brogues of her own design, Simone Rocha (right) doesn’t look as though she has spent two days crawling around the window-space of Dover Street Market (DSM), creating her first window installation for London’s cult fashion store.
It is Friday evening, and we are a few doors away, sitting in the apartment belonging to her parents above her father’s own Dover Street shop. Rocha lives and works across the city in Dalston – like most of London’s young cutting-edge designers – but this is where she holds appointments. The daughter of famous designer John Rocha has become a fashion designer in her own right, and the 26-year-old is delighted to have been offered the space to develop her cool, no-fuss brand identity in DSM. “It’s given me a feeling of moving forward,” she enthuses in her lilting Irish accent. For the window, she created a heavily-scented vertical garden, an unexpectedly lush, organic sight next to the strippedback concrete shop interior. It is a rare privilege for a fledgling label to be given a window to create, and it remains in situ for three weeks leading up to London Fashion Week.
Meanwhile, her collection of nonchalantly pretty highwaist dresses, daisy jackets and PVC overskirts nestles with her own small shop fitting, between global brands Lanvin and Alexander McQueen. DSM clearly views Simone as a label with as much potential longevity as that enjoyed by her father. “We’ve worked with Simone since her first collection,” says Dickon Bowden, vice-president of Dover Street Market, and by giving her the window and a permanent space, “we are providing her with the opportunity and freedom to express her creativity”.
Such an endorsement is well-placed, as a substantial part of her collection sold the first day. In five seasons, Rocha is making her presence felt. She has rapidly amassed 52 stockists for her grungy vision of glamour, including influential retailers such as Colette in Paris, 10 Corso Como in Milan, Opening Ceremony in the United States – and I.T in Hong Kong, which was in there at the beginning. “I.T saw my shoes first season [her signature floating Perspex-soled brogues] and the following season bought the collection,” Rocha says.
“They have been very supportive and every time they come for an appointment, they are always wearing my pieces, which I take as a pretty good sign.” I.T, she’s noticed, “always buy the young, fun, exciting colourful pieces”, which include this season her fresh white daisy-embroidered organza jackets and dresses with punches of neon, her lightweight crochet dresses and her signature acrylic bags and Perspex shoes.
“I like how she [Simone] creates her own style, conveying romance and femininity along with edginess and modernity, through using different fabrications like contrasting laces and crochets with PVC; using sharp neon colours over classic laces … traditional lace-up shoes with a twist of applying plexi heels … I just love everything from her,” says Tracy Chen, I.T’s merchandising manager. “Hong Kong customers are quite adventurous, they look for something different, and I am convinced they will love the unconventional and unique Simone Rocha style, which can be worn every day.”
Rocha is promoted as a young, independent London-based designer, but she says: “Indeed, her Chinese grandmother has inspired her new autumn/ winter collection, unveiled at the end of February.”
Rocha was born in Dublin, where John Rocha settled many years ago, married and established his label. Her mother, Odette, is her business partner, overseeing sales and production, a job she juggles with her creative role alongside her husband for his label. John Rocha is not directly involved in Simone’s label. Rocha attended her first fashion show aged nothing, backstage in a Moses basket. By the time she was 12 she started helping around the studio.
“People always ask if I’m influenced by my father,” Rocha says. “Of course I am, he’s my father. And because he’s always had such a sensitivity to textiles, and his dresses might have 500 pieces of chiffon all delicately put together – so romantic and beautiful, you can’t help but be influenced.” Their aesthetics are quite different, however. His work is organic, she says, while she tends to be more minimalist and play with the contrasts of masculinity and femininity. She brings a tougher edge to her collections, whether balancing dainty tulle with sharp tailoring, grounding delicate lace fabrics with masculine footwear, or subverting pretty crafted pieces with edgier materials like PVC and acrylic. But she admits there is a softening of her line in her spring collection. “Autumn/winter  was about a tough, strong girl because it was my first big solo show, and I wanted to be independent, whereas I was a little more at ease with myself in this collection, so I felt a bit softer.”
Fashion editor Suzy Menkes says in the International Herald Tribune: “The Day-Glo lace outfits that closed Simone Rocha ‘s summer 2013 show caught perfectly her mix of the innocent and the subversive.”
So what of the plans for Simone Rocha’s label? “It is about growing it in the right way and in the right places [stockists],” she says. “I’ve been very lucky to grow up in the industry and having an awareness of how you can grow a brand – the thing is not to try and do it all now.”
1986 Born in Dublin, Ireland.
2008 Graduates from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin.
2010 Completes her MA at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in the same year as other noted young Minimalists J JS Lee and Thomas Tait.
2011 Selected to be part of the Fashion East catwalk for spring/summer (shown in September 2010) and autumn/winter 2011. Her springsummer collection featured in the windows of London's Selfridges as part of the store's "Bright Young Things" showcase.
2012 Receives NewGen sponsorship for her autumn/winter 2012 and spring/ summer 2013 collections. In September, she was invited to feature in TateShots, the Tate Gallery's film series of designers whose work is influenced by artists. Nominated for Emerging Talent at the British Fashion Awards.
2013 Her autumn/winter collection, influenced by her Chinese grandmother, hits the catwalk.
WHERE TO FIND SIMONE’S WORK
HONG KONG AND ASIA
Hong Kong: I.T
Japan: Dover Street Market
Singapore: Club 21
South Korea: Space Mue, Corso
Britain: Dover Street Market,
France: Colette, Le Bon Marche, Gago
Italy: 10 Corso Como, Biffi