Synonymous with a type of hyper-femininity that plays off part courtly, part rock-chic Simone Rocha has become a household name since the brands inception in 2010. She’s part of the age of designers like Molly Goddard who have rewritten the rules for modern women’s dressing. Wide skirted and girlish her creations have a sculptural dimension that plays with excess, demanding to take up space.
Since Spring/Summer 2022 Simone Rocha has waved good-bye to her sherbet pink frills of the past to design overtly dark and gothic collections. For Autumn/Winter 2022 she was inspired by the Children of Lir, a chilling piece of Irish mythology that tells of a king’s children being turned to swans. The collection is pins wing-like structures unconventionally on the front of the body and crowns signet-like balaclavas with traditional Simone Rocha pearl motifs. Accompanying the show is a poem,

“Two sons and two daughters
A dark lament

Crushed Taffeta wings,
An exploration of outwear and what lies beneath

Blood line and quilted blankets
Bitter sequins, blue velvet”

We discuss the new layers added to her design identity and throwing china dolls down the stairs in the context of her latest AW22 collection.
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Thank you so much for speaking to METAL magazine. It is a pleasure and a privilege to speak to you. Have you been able to have a rest since your enchanting presentation last month? What is your favourite way to recharge?
Hello, my pleasure! I have to admit, it’s been great to have the show behind me, my favourite way to reset is to not be in London and be with my daughters. I'm going to Ireland next week and really looking forward to it.
You have said being in nature allows you to have time to have a conversation with yourself. Do you still get that luxury as a mother?
I try!
Simone Rocha, as a label, is known for rewriting femininity as a powerful rather than submissive characteristic. Elements of nature like the elegant garden rose complete with thorns is a prime example of this sense of poisonous, powerful, and ageless femininity that permeates your style. Today your signature baby pink is replaced with an altogether darker palette, shifting this season for Autumn/Winter 2022 to black and night-sky navy. Are you able to talk about why this shift happened with us?
I felt a darkness this season leading up to the show and while working on the collection and I think it crept into the collection. Some collections just feel like that, it has started with my Spring/Summer 2022 collection Baby Teeth and I felt like I needed to continue it, almost get it all out of my system. Like when you are reading a book that is distressing but you need to finish it. Which also brought me to the Irish story of the Children of Lir.
Your blood-red embroidery drips over white petticoats. It reminds me of your first collection’s ode to the Irish Aran Island’s mourning tradition in which they dyed their petticoats red and wore the garments on their heads. Do you reimagine blood-red skirts to celebrate motherhood at its beginning and end - with the recent arrival of your second child and its end after the passing of your own inspirational Mother - or does is just reference the dark tale of the Children of Lir?
The collections of the Aran Islands and the Children of Lir are both set in Ireland in the relentlessness of nature so there is a connection with both collections, like you said reflected in the bloody embroidery.
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Did Swan Lake – or even the film Black Swan – come into your references?
I had seen Swan Lake this year in the Royal Opera House... but I wasn't really considering it in the collection but with the ballet trainer it becomes important in grounding the collection and elongating the legs like birds with the long stockings.
It seems to be the first time you overtly explore fairytales in a collection, why is this? What diverted your interest away from your usual focus on reality?
I felt like an element of escapism was necessary for this particular collection, also to take it away from my own personal emotion...almost wanting to be an outsider looking in, I thought of it a little like translating the story into a film set today and casting it with characters.
You have previously referenced vintage dolls in your designs. I think the face of one became a print in SS19 Simone Rocha. Did the short highly frilled dresses of dolls inspire some of your silhouettes for this season?
Actually, the very short dresses were reflecting stolen youth, I wanted the micro dress to feel very young and naive, reflecting the daughters whose youth is stolen from them when they are turned into swans.
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Are dolls an interesting way to look at how we caricature femininity?
I find dolls interesting as they are a mini physical idea of femininity but they are almost for me it’s almost about dissecting that idea…even when I was small I had only china dolls, not Barbies, and I used to send them down the banister stairs, then I would have to glue them back together so they would be all cracked and covered in plasters.
Do your children have favourite toys?
A soft pussy cat and a soft black panther.
Recent collections in comparison to your earlier work in the 2010s feature fuller silhouettes padding out the body with more layers, frills, wide shoulders, and commanding sleeves. Why do Simone Rocha models take up more physical space than before?
I think with every collection there is an additional layer of layering, developing, and I think it's reflected in the clothes.
Is your use of capes a nod to the regal or to wearing blankets as capes experiencing the insomnia that comes with welcoming a new child – or a bit or both?
In different collections it resembles different things, but ultimately, I think it represents security.
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Sweet pink Perspex-heeled brogues (Spring/Summer 2012) have made way for pimped-up ballet pumps with stompy thick soles and blood-droplet beading (Autumn/Winter 2022), now you debut a harder navy satin iteration for Spring/Summer 20S22. Is this thick-soled design a sign of the times that women don’t want to walk on eggshells – we like to stomp – or is it yet another way to play with tensions between soft and hard?
Yes exactly.
The dress you wore to take your bow featured the Spring/Summer 20S22 collar of comic proportions. It feels uncanny – something associated with horror. What inspired blowing up this detail?
It was a piece from Spring Summer 2022 and was originally inspired by baby’s bibs and playing with that proportion.
You are a big art fan and describe your taste as dark and provocative, who hangs on your walls?
Francis Bacon, Irish embroidered tapestries, Zhang Xiaogang, Sophie Barber, Faye Wei Wei, Matisse, Perry Odgen’s Pony Kids.
Finally, I imagine your children’s pictures, scribbles and sketches have also found space on the walls in your home. Is there a highlight?
I always love Valentine’s family portraits.
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