Simone Rocha and Petra Collins Tap into an Eerie Femininity for Moncler’s Genius Project
Moncler Genius is a creative incubation project introduced by the Italian label that invites designers from different backgrounds to translate the brand’s tradition in outdoorsmanship into their own vision. For the third installment of the program, Moncler has collaborated with Simone Rocha. The Irish designer, known for her feminine shapes and whimsical fabrication, drew inspiration from dance and the films of Federico Fellini. This phase of the Genius lab’s main initiative is to translate the sense of connection and emotion found in a digital domain into real life. Wanting to provide a fully immersive experience, Moncler and Rocha partnered with the filmmaker and photographer Petra Collins on a video inspired by her personal experience with dance. “I had been a fan of Simone’s for a while and had been shooting her pieces a lot,” Collins says. “Her designs are very cinematic so I have always been drawn to them.”
The short film captures dancers’ waves of emotions through performance: diligently practicing their routines, anxiously pacing to the stage, and finding relief as the performance comes to an end, all while beautifully adorned in Rocha’s signature floral embroidered tulle, pearl encrusted gloves, and matching hair clips. Here, Rocha and Collins discuss their collaboration, their influences, and the surprising power of surrendering complete creative control.
PETRA COLLINS: You were inspired by dance and movement in this collection. But there’s always a narrative to your work. What were you hoping to articulate in these designs?
SIMONE ROCHA: For each collection, especially with my work at Moncler, I try to tell a story, almost like a small play or a moment—the Victorian climbers walking up the hill on a paper carousel, the lost girl guides in the woods and now a beautiful nightmare, an act with a dancer falling into her dreams mirroring her realities.
COLLINS: How does that visual narrative feed into the story you wanted this film to tell? There seems to be a clear divide between youthful innocence and a darker, threatening underworld in your designs. Those lines become blurred a bit in the film.
ROCHA: In my clothes, I always want a tension and a balance, a constant conversation, so here it was very much between the dream and the reality.
COLLINS: Is there a particular era that attracts you? What are the books, works of art, and films that you look to or wander through when you’re creating a collection?
ROCHA: All different, all the time. I look at the 19th century but also the 1990s. I grew up was always influenced by native emotions but balanced with historical references, blending them together. I read lots of Irish writers. And then artists like Francis Bacon, Roni Horn, and Genieve Figgis.
COLLINS: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists, or can it be hard to surrender creative control?
ROCHA: I very much do, especially with filmmakers and photographers. I see it as an extension of the story and an additional layer to share the work and emotion.
COLLINS: Where should we look to find the Irish influence in the collection?
ROCHA: In this particular collection there were very few Irish influences. I was designing my own collections at the same time, which were both heavily influenced by Ireland, the tradition of Wren Day, and the J.M. Synge play Riders to the Sea. In this project, there’s a mix of childlike charm and eeriness. What is the impact of casting younger models—or are they dancers—in it?
COLLINS: Some of the cast are models, some are dancers, and the two main characters are my family —my sister Anna and my cousin Rosa. The way I work has remained the same since I was a child. The reason I make work is so I can stay alive, and I guess in that there is a lot of play. Somehow, I’ve managed to hold onto my sense of awe and excitement which is usually the tone on set. It’s fun when I get to work with younger talent (my cousin being the young girl in this) because we can really approach shooting like we are literally in the scene or are playing and creating our own world.
ROCHA: Your work celebrates the feminine and the female gaze. How did you conceptualize this project? What were your first thoughts when you saw the collection?
COLLINS: I love your clothing because of the way you subvert femininity. There is a sharpness in your clothing, a mixture of fabrics that aren’t usually allowed to exist together. When looking at it, I immediately thought of them as protection but also as costumes in some grand ballet.
ROCHA: What’s your favorite aspect of the film? What do you feel came across just as you imagined?
COLLINS: It’s never what I imagine, which is the best part.