All the critics suggesting that Simone Rocha’s latest collection was ‘about’, as it were, pregnancy and motherhood could be accused of conflating the artist with her art and lending too much credence in their reports to the the recent birth of Rocha’s baby daughter – were it not, that is, that Rocha explicitly mentioned “birth, rebirth” and “mothering” in her typically haiku-esque show notes. Even so, whilst there was an airy, very old fashioned maternity-wear aspect to some of the pieces (Forgiving, voluminous shapes! Breezy, gauzy fabrics! Pink!), it would be wrong to overstate the maternal aspect here at the expense of some rather more interesting dimensions at play.
In particular, there was an aged, almost decrepit quality to many of the clothes. Black, Gothic dresses, sometimes with attached sheer gloves, had a Victorian feel to them which could well be associated with a stern matron or nursemaid – the reading many have plumped for. But they could just as easily be clothes for mourning; for the elderly mother; the lonely aunt; the widow past her prime; even an ancient, rocking-chair bound spinster seemed a feasibly cinematic image. Seen this way, the collection was as much about loss and time’s ravages (those unraveling hems and loose threads were decomposing and coming apart before they were even off the catwalk) as it was about a new mother’s blushing cheeks and her fresh pink nightie.
Light and Shade
Call me a pessimist, but in fact it was those contradictions and variations that made the collection exciting. The sorrowful blacks were followed with shocks of passionate, enlivened red – in two technically astounding dresses that played wonderfully with structure – or pearly, girlish lilac frocks that were every bit about youth, hope and fertility. All this conceptual discussion, however, belies the fact that, quite simply, these were beautiful – often weirdly wonderful – clothes for Rocha’s fiercely individual customer.