Simone Rocha: Hand-embroidered castles in Hauser & Wirth
Leave it to Simone Rocha to present the most brilliant collection this weekend at London Fashion Week: high ethereal romanticism located somewhere between Jane Austen and Catherine de' Medici.
On a Saturday in London largely bereft of opportunities to see actual clothes up close, Rocha unveiled her latest ideas in the Mayfair Gallery of her old pals Hauser & Wirth.
Due to social distancing, guests were limited to a few score editors, buyers and friends, but Rocha had already telegraphed her intentions with a series of photos by photographer Jacob Lillis showing delicate embroidered and beaded objects – part mask, part decoration, part bra – or a still life of a white silk dress with heraldic stamps.
In the end, the designer billed the event on social media as "Sharing Today," opening with rather divine ball gowns cut so they enveloped the shoulder in clouds of taffeta or cloqué.
This season, Rocha’s clothes were imbued with plenty of feminine escapism, yet her pieces are always feminist in the sense that their delicacy and sheer beauty evoke a desire by women to dress on their own terms with a certain rare sensibility. Unlike the characters in Austen’s novels, her clients are not dependent on their choice of husbands for economic security, but like the writer’s heroines they seek a life of distinction and good taste, far removed from so much of the sensationalism one can find in so many other designers today. Or so many gothic writers of Jane’s time.
The mood always varies when Rocha works in black, adding oomph and more spine to her aesthetic. Her flared dresses with leg of mutton sleeves had a courtly and regal air worthy of Catherine de' Medici. None of the 29 looks in this Spring/Summer 2021 collection included a ruffled neck collar, the Italian-born regent’s signature touch, yet the grandeur and voluminous silhouettes of rich golden or black satin dresses harked back to the Renaissance queen. Even if Catherine never had the gumption to wear her dresses cut off just below the knee and finished with sexy black tights.
Other black outfits recalled the stylized ink drawings of artist Kara Walker and her pastoral fantasies; the whole collection very smartly styled by Robbie Spencer at Art Partner.
"Sobering and exploding, Pragmatic and foreboding, Personal, provocative, suggestive intimacy, excavating… Hand-embroidered castles from a faraway place," read Rocha’s typically evocative program notes.
Many of the self-confident cast appeared anchored by multi-strap Cinderella ballet slippers in pearly satin, or on sporty platform sneaker-style getas trimmed with pearls. Rocha also showed new versions of her signature egg-shaped bag, this time in silvery hues and dangling from long straps of pearls, rather like a medieval thurible.
A sense of the sacred all the way to the color palette, which Rocha described with an almost biblical reference: "Amber, gold & Myrrh."
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