London’s Guildhall, the setting for Simone Rocha’s show, was originally built to display the City of London’s art collection. Great Masterpieces, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting of the red-head La Ghirlandata to Sir John Everett Millais oil painting that captured a solemn little girl in scarlet cape, titled my first sermon, lured you into the venue for today’s show. The mix of Pre-Raphaelite and narrative painting felt an almost perfect prelude to this designer who, though only five years out of college, produced an instantly recognized signature.
With ethereal, alabaster skin, flushed cheeks and matted hair that looked like it was strangling them, the models looked much like the pre-Raphaelites in the gallery. Rocha said this season she was inspired by the spirit of ‘when she was young’, and had looked at the work of French artist Louise Bourgeois, and how she’d worked with conflicting materials.
Think Cathy Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights, spellbindingly beautiful, strong and independent, mixed with another literary heroine ‘The Little Princess’, a street urchin in brogues and frilled ankle socks dressed in soot and the softest, rich, oversized black velvet petals. Rocha plays with a whole sensory of textiles as black lay on black, lush velvets were trimmed with jet beads in exquisite craftsmanship while coats and regal looking capes were cut in black tapestry and brocades. Signature ruffles, puffed sleeves and strings of pearls cued an addition of coppery, gold chenille ‘upholstery’-like motifs to the procession of black contrasting textiles and lace effect ornamentation. A rich, floral print on black satin was set lain on panels and ruffles of nude tulle and petals and tufts of horse-hair were strewn proactively over nude, tulle ruffle dresses, as oversized pastel petals preserved both modesty and innocence of her muse. Pearls, petals, gingham led to a regal red closing in a collection that was both modern and brave.