The material world

Words by Stuart Brumfitt / Photography by Perry Ogden

As her new flagship store opens in New York, Supplement meets Simone Rocha to find out how the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year built her creations from modern photography and memories of Ireland, and won over Rihanna and Chloë Sevigny in the process

“People always think I’m an intern,” says Simone Rocha, cracking into her raspy laugh. “I was in Miu Miu in New York one day and someone was like, ‘I love your coat! Where’s it from?’ And I was like, ‘Errrr, Simone Rocha.’ And she was like, ‘Does she have a store here?’ And I was like, ‘Errrr, I think she’s opening one…’ People never know it’s me. I’m under the radar. I don’t want to be famous. I just want to be a good designer.” 

She can certainly lay claim to that – the British Fashion Council crowned her Designer of the Year at last year’s awards, putting her in the realm of John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Phoebe Philo, Christopher Kane and – sweetest of all – her father John Rocha. “It’s such an amazing group of people,” she says. “All these really pioneering designers who are totally international. And not a huge amount of women have won it, so it’s humbling to be a part of that.”

Those aren’t the names Rocha looked to when she was fantasising about working in fashion, though. Instead, it was all about avant-garde Japanese designers, the Antwerp Six in her Central Saint Martins years (“everyone got obsessed with them – that’s what you do at college”) and, because she’s self-professed “old fashioned”, the great houses (especially Cristóbal Balenciaga’s).

Rocha’s clothes – a mixture of pretty and erotic, crafty and modern, Perspex and lace, simple and conceptual – have crossed over from simply being arresting catwalk or editorial creations to the kind of thing that any woman with self-confidence, a strong sense of style and a sharp contemporary edge wants to wear. “Rihanna wears it to the supermarket!” she laughs. Like the singer, most of the notable people drawn to her designs are formidable females: architect Zaha Hadid was a fan; artist Roni Horn wears her and last year she started dressing actress and kudos-giver Chloë Sevigny. “All these amazing birds!” Rocha chuckles. 

Read more in Issue 4...