Simone Rocha stages dramatic show in Victorian theater

For Spring-Summer 2020, Simone Rocha staged her most dramatic show to date in a restored Victorian theater which, until recently, had been closed to the public for 80 years.

Posted: Sep 18, 2019 11:40 AM
Updated: Sep 18, 2019 11:40 AM

Simone Rocha clearly has an affinity for historic spaces. In previous editions of London Fashion Week, the Irish fashion designer has staged shows at the 19th-century Lancaster House, a ballroom at Goldsmith's Hall, the gothic Southwark Cathedral and London's medieval Guildhall.

"There's such an amazing history in all these buildings that it seeps into the collections. I really like to have that contrast of what I'm doing, which is very new, and my interpretation of femininity -- but looking at it in a space that has a historical weight to it," she says, adding: "I love that you can walk in somewhere and be completely transported at that one moment."

This season, Rocha has chosen one of her most dramatic backdrops to date: A restored Victorian theater that was closed to the public for 80 years.

Located in the East Wing of London's historic Alexandra Palace, which was built in the 1870s, the theater was reopened last December following an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation. With much of the original structure preserved, the space appears frozen in time, its high-tech lighting and sound equipment hidden beneath peeled paint and faded floorboards.

The main venue space at "Ally Pally," as it is known by Londoners, has hosted shows by the likes of Jay-Z, The Rolling Stones and Florence and The Machine in recent years. But on Sunday evening, its newly-opened theater provided an atmospheric backdrop to Rocha's evocative new collection -- an inventive womenswear line that linked to her Irish heritage and proved why she is one of fashion's most talked-about designers.

Hunting the wren

Given her penchant for historic settings, it is little surprise that Rocha's new collection is rooted in Ireland's past -- specifically the largely defunct tradition of wren boys, who would "hunt" a fake wren on St. Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas. Often dressed in straw hats and mismatched clothing, the young men would go from house to house dancing, singing and asking for money.

Their circular dances inspired Rocha to eschew a conventional runway in favor of a looped one. Her models walked before a front row packed with fashion luminaries including Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful and Alexa Chung.

"I've been showing in buildings with lots of different rooms. And this season I really wanted to bring it together," Rocha explained.

"I was also really interested in the fact that (the wren boys would) knock on doors, almost like trick or treaters asking for money. And the idea was that the interiors of the houses that they were knocking on (influenced my) fabrications."

As such, the collection's fabrics, which Rocha creates herself, take the form of faded wallpaper print on silk taffeta, suit patterns reminiscent of upholstery and embroidered ivory tulle that mimics blue Delft crockery. The contrast between the wren boys and Rocha's signature prettiness resulted in something distinctly tomboyish, continuing her ongoing exploration between masculine and feminine aesthetics.

Elsewhere, she referenced the wrens themselves: Layers of sequins evoked feathers, flashes of blood red hinted at the wren's once-violent end and ballooning dress silhouettes looked almost like birds with their wings closed. The use of raffia -- made from a type of palm, and an unusual choice for Rocha -- meanwhile nodded to the wren boys' straw hats. The designer wound it through models' hair and encased some of her more dramatic outfits in the material.

Some observers tried to forge links between the collection and Brexit. But Rocha, who is known for keeping politics out of her work, wouldn't be drawn on the subject: "I think it's impossible not to be influenced by everything that's going around you," she says, adding: "I have to admit, creatively, I don't bring (politics) into my work."

Having drawn inspiration from artist Louise Bourgeois for last season's collection, Rocha says she wanted to focus on something closer to home. Her show's Irish narrative was further advanced by her decision to cast Irish theater actresses, including Olwen Fouéré, Jessie Buckley, Simone Kirby, Charlene McKenna and Valene Kane, as models.

Another notable inclusion in her cross-generational casting was 63-year-old Oscar-nominated actress Lesley Manville, star of the 2017 film "Phantom Thread."

Never a simple conclusion

Rocha's designs never offer simple conclusions. Instead, each collection continues to explore her signature tenets: contrast, extreme attention to detail and an appreciation of culture and heritage.

Her clothes appeal to women of all ages, with every new season uncovering sometimes contradictory layers of femininity, from girlish innocence to bold independence.

At 33, Rocha has achieved critical acclaim and built a successful independent label, with stores in New York, London and Hong Kong. She has won numerous awards including "British Womenswear Designer Award" at the 2016 Fashion Awards, a prize her father (designer John Rocha) won 23 years earlier. And in February 2018 she became a creative director for Italian brand Moncler, presenting at Milan Fashion Week as part of their Genius Group.

This season appears to have continued her recent run of form, while evolving the scale and impact of her work.

"I genuinely feel it's such a privilege to be able to ask all these people to come here and show how I have interpreted an emotion into something physical, and for them to see it and ... physically or emotionally respond to it," she says. "It's 100 percent why I do what I do."

Huntsville
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Florence
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 61°
Fayetteville
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 68°
Decatur
Overcast
65° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 65°
Scottsboro
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 159439

Reported Deaths: 2699
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23443377
Mobile16934315
Tuscaloosa10414140
Montgomery10298197
Madison939496
Shelby743663
Baldwin669469
Lee655065
Calhoun462161
Marshall441150
Etowah431251
Morgan418235
Houston418034
DeKalb346129
Elmore322753
St. Clair299942
Limestone289330
Walker282392
Talladega267435
Cullman250824
Lauderdale231342
Jackson217515
Autauga207431
Franklin206131
Colbert204132
Russell19533
Blount194225
Chilton189332
Dallas187227
Coffee179511
Dale177251
Covington175529
Escambia173030
Clarke135317
Chambers135244
Pike134413
Tallapoosa133087
Marion109729
Barbour10339
Marengo102522
Butler101340
Winston93713
Geneva9167
Lawrence86132
Pickens86018
Bibb84314
Randolph82916
Hale77730
Clay74912
Washington74912
Cherokee74514
Henry7196
Lowndes71428
Bullock64917
Monroe64810
Crenshaw60930
Perry5936
Fayette58413
Cleburne5738
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56113
Macon53720
Lamar5065
Sumter47321
Choctaw39212
Greene34616
Coosa2053
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 249866

Reported Deaths: 3163
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36685565
Davidson31975343
Knox1284891
Rutherford12017115
Hamilton11867109
Williamson718756
Sumner6184112
Wilson473159
Putnam445657
Montgomery424057
Out of TN415136
Sullivan381946
Madison381479
Bradley361923
Washington356951
Maury338938
Blount337436
Sevier336423
Robertson262842
Hamblen247548
Tipton238123
Unassigned22615
Dyer224732
Gibson217244
Coffee192325
Hardeman190533
Greene181252
Obion179522
Trousdale17768
Bedford174520
Dickson170719
Fayette169825
Anderson169713
McMinn165937
Lawrence164520
Loudon164311
Cumberland161327
Wayne16047
Carter158334
Weakley157326
Jefferson156421
Monroe147228
Warren144910
Lauderdale144117
Henderson142126
Hardin140420
Macon134825
Roane13217
Franklin130220
Haywood129728
Overton122917
Hawkins122625
White119414
Johnson11577
Marshall115710
Carroll115326
McNairy113427
Rhea112418
Cocke108014
Cheatham106911
Campbell103512
Bledsoe10264
Smith99413
Lake9873
Giles98336
Fentress91811
Lincoln9173
Crockett87020
Hickman81015
Henry80211
Marion7839
DeKalb73717
Chester73314
Decatur66311
Grainger6124
Grundy57511
Union5463
Claiborne5286
Polk51713
Humphreys4584
Jackson4535
Morgan4437
Unicoi4333
Houston42317
Benton4219
Cannon4212
Lewis4185
Clay40615
Scott3865
Sequatchie3472
Stewart33611
Meigs3296
Perry3082
Pickett2748
Moore2722
Van Buren2081
Hancock1213

Community Events