Simone Rocha: Irish Tradition at London Fashion Week SS20

Written by Taraneh Azar, Runway Correspondent

Simone Rocha presented one of her most beautiful collections yet in a whimsical Spring 2020 RTW London Fashion Week runway show earlier this month. 

Rocha is known for her structured yet flowing layered silhouettes and dainty netted ruffles, eyelet cuts and oftentimes hyper-feminine garments. This year, Rocha maintained the core of her stylistic identity while escalating the presentation to incorporate a cultural tradition from her home country of Ireland. With the quintessential ruffles and sweeping silhouettes characteristic of many Rocha collections, she integrated new and varying elements to hearken back to the Irish wren-boys who hunt and kill a wren bird the day after Christmas and knock on neighborhood doors demanding money. 

Still, knowing her intent is not essential to deciphering the tablecloth prints and straw accents of the collection, as the garments themselves, featuring classic Rocha cuts among fresh new elements, can be evaluated on their own without consideration of the deeper meaning. The presentation makes sense stylistically, even with new and obscure elements. 

The element of straw throughout the presentation is a distinct reference to the wren-boys who wear straw outfits for the pre-Christian tradition. Thus, accented with straw as well as silver hardware spiked crowns and delicate satin slippers, Rocha’s intention of exploring the novel placement in Irish society of wren-boys who knock on the doors as well as the homes themselves is clear throughout the collection. As she juxtaposed the straw of the wren-boy uniform with doilies and tablecloths, the collection opened with blue and white china-printed frocks, the patterns flowing on delicate, gauze-like fabric dropping to eyelet-edged cuffs. 

Delft china patterns on structured, feminine, collared dresses and layered over pleated pants and sturdy, military-style shoes nodded to Rocha’s tendency to balance hyper-feminine elements with hyper-masculine ones in the traditional binary. The dainty, flowing white and blue airy fabrics were followed by some of Rocha’s more traditional ruffled, layered, solid black constructions with pearl accents and metallic elements. Looks featuring stark neutral tans, whites and blacks were followed by baby pink which led to deep, bright reds and chintz, textile-like prints.

Bright, festive sequins and sparkles were followed by beautiful deep black silks. Strappy sandals alternated with silk slippers and chunky platforms. 

Some garments were encased in straw, wrapping Rocha’s otherwise flowing, dainty garments in stiff yet feminine weaved sashes and crochet. Basket bags took on a new life as they glittered and gleamed down the runway, covered in shimmering hardware. Many models sported straw ornaments encrusted in jewels slung over their shoulders. Others had wren feathers painted on their foreheads, the ballooning silhouettes a nod to the captured bird itself. 

Rocha successfully elevates her classic style and traditionally referenced cuts and silhouettes with the obscure elements of straw and painted feathers, paying homage to an ancient tradition that many know nothing of, even across the water in England. 

While it is hard to know whether Rocha was taking a stab at Boris Johnson and British parliamentary efforts to implement a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Rocha clearly alluded to a core Irish identity and a disconnect from London as many in the audience failed to understand the reference to this unique St. Stephen’s Day tradition. In the age of Brexit, whether the theme of the collection was deliberately political or not, it is impossible to not consider the presentation in light of the current political situation in a clash of culture and identity.

Photos From The Show:

Photos courtesy of Vogue.

The Avenue Magazine