Simone Rocha wields a careful, measured hand in all she creates, and it shows. The London-based designer’s lace, tulle, and floral-adorned constructions have referenced ritual, religion, or historical dress, warped with a big enough smattering of the erotic to morph any sweetness and light into a provocative take on female sexuality. Her work always has the feel of labored-over handcraft even when she plays with tech-fabrics or interjects Perspex, one of her signature accessory materials, into a look. For Spring 2017, the idea of labor, specifically, people working the land, emerged as the key conceptual underpinning. Rocha was inspired by an exhibition of the photographer Jackie Nickerson she saw at the National Gallery of Art in Dublin, which juxtaposed Nickerson’s portraits of African farmers with works from the museum’s permanent collection, such as Paul Henry’s 1912 oil painting The Potato Eaters, a depiction of women digging for potatoes.
“Jackie and I live in Ireland. It’s where I’m from. We ended up meeting there and started this really interesting rapport,” Rocha says. “She saw the collection, and she could see how it was influenced.” The meeting was fortuitous. Nickerson shot Rocha’s Spring/Summer ad campaign, which the designer and Nickerson produced over four days in Zambia. “It comes from her gut,” Rocha reflects of Nickerson’s working style. “She’s extremely sincere, as a person and in her work. So it was really very special to be a part of that process.”
In addition to Nickerson’s still photographs, filmmaker Eoin McLoughlin, on set in the bush with Rocha and Nickerson, lensed a video of the behind-the-scenes creation of the campaign entitled “Patchwork/Work,” which we’re thrilled to premiere above. “The idea of patchwork, the film is almost woven like a tapestry, because we have a little bit of the girl, but we really wanted the land and the machinery and all of that in it as well,” Rocha explains. “You can just see the heat. When you’re looking at it you can smell it. For me it was taking all those elements and grounding the collection. It felt very important to give a sense of place, and a home, and giving it the extra layer.”
It’s the first video Rocha has made for her line; she often adds an extra dimension to a collection through special edition books, such as ones made in collaboration with photographers Colin Dodgson or Jacob Lillis, or artistic-minded installations at her stockists, such as Dover Street Market. There’s always a deeper creative impulse on display behind the clothes, which Rocha is also articulating through a new store—this time, in New York on Wooster Street in SoHo, slated to open during Fashion Week this month. A new book will also be released for the store launch, Rocha says, featuring photographs from Nickerson, Irish photographer Perry Odgen, and work of the conceptual artist Roni Horn. “It’s all kind of one big project,” the designer notes. “All the different elements for me paint the big picture.”
FOR MORE ON SIMONE ROCHA, VISIT HER WEBSITE.