With her first collections already, Simone Rocha attracted the fashion world’s attention. From Suzy Menkes or Karl Lagerfeld to Anna Wintour – everyone gushes about the designs created by this young talent, who happens to be the daughter of Irish fashion icon John Rocha; as they say: the apple doesn’t fall far from the trunk. In the course of last year she did not only open her own shop in London Mayfair, but also gave birth to a little baby girl. At the moment she is strongly represented at the newly opened Dover Street Market in Haymarket. We met Simone Rocha in her London Atelier in the working class district Islington – about time to get to know this Lady!
What a wonderful atmosphere here in your atelier.
Thank you. Yes, we’ve been here for a few years now. At the moment it’s unusually quiet. We’re already preparing the next season.
You also go to Asia time and again..
Last year I made a Ginza installation for the Dover Street Market in Tokyo. I had a special time there. Lots of fascinating people were with me, probably due to the opening of the new Miu Miu store. Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons, Rei Kawakubo, all of my icons.
How strong is your work influenced by Asia or labels like Comme des Garçons?
Strongly. I very much admire the work of Rei Kawakubo and I’m really inspired by her ethic and the way she works. I’ve also been working for Dover Street market almost right from the start. After this one week in Tokyo I headed to Kyoto, to the cherry blossom. That was magical. And after that I was in Hongkong to visit my grandmother – my dad’s mum.
The famous grandmother, that has her own personal style…
Yes a wonderful stylistic sense. By now she is very old and we just had some time out, just the family. Now I’m glad to be back..
You like to be inspired by artists, like Louise Bourgeois in 2015.
Bourgeois had her self-doubts, a certain insecurity that accompanied her all of her life. What I like about Louise Bourgeois’ work is that you can really tell the tenderness and fragility, which is instantly palpable.
Louise Bourgeois was respected and honored for her work only late in life – in contrast to you.
I know, I can barely wait to turn 70 (laughs heartily)
You seem very grounded and down to earth.
I just know that things can be really great but they can also turn out very badly. My dad’s firm has had ups and downs, so this is something I am well aware of. And it makes it all easier for me – it feels natural.
Did it also feel natural and normal to become a fashion designer yourself?
In a certain way, yes. At home in Ireland I always gave a hand at the studio. Sometimes, before the shows, I skipped school for to weeks to help out. I loved it – also because I didn’t like attending school very much. The practical work is what always interested me. I loved working for my father, but also liked being a waiter: simple labour in the classic sense.
I’ve always been creative. So I went to to Dublin’s School of Design. When I was accepted there, I basically had no idea what I wanted to do. I tried everything: sculpture, print, design, textiles. At that time I knowingly did not want to pursue fashion – it just seemed so obvious with my personal background. But after trying everything else I realized that it is fashion after all. It’s the best way to express myself creatively. For me it’s easy to take an emotion and convey it into clothing. Much easier as in art or design. In this respect, I deliberately decided on it, regardless of my parents’ background.
So fashion has always been a part of your life?
Absolutely. That’ts just how it feels. I also have a very personal view of clothes.
What does your vision of clothing look like?
I just instantly see how somone dresses and what they express with it. I immediately know which elements I like about it or I think: if this part was bigger or had a different shape or if the proportions were arranged differently… all these things give me the impuls, that I want to create right away.
Do you think in images?
A bit. But I rather think in emotions and sensations. I instantly notice, if a dress seems too heavy. I literally feel it. Or if something seems off balance. It is something, that comes to me naturally: the feeling towards things.
How important was fashion school in this context? How much talent do you have to bring along and to what extent can school teach you to master fashion design?
For someone who never enjoyed going to school I have to say: my time at college was incredibly important. I truly believe in this education. Before I had a thousand ideas, but no focus at all. The time it takes to really gain knowledge, learning the skills and techniques – that is crucial. Besides, I’m a very instinctive person and someday I decided: If I become a fashion designer, then I’ll be a fashion designer at the best. I try to be as good as I possibly can be. In this context I also found out how important it is to go to the best college. So I applied to Central Saint Martins College. I received my degree from Louise Wilson, who sadly passed away in 2014. It was a blessing to be her student.
Did you ever think: “This is what I had to leave behind to become who I am today” Do you have a specific example?
I wanted to move to London by all means. I find the city very exciting and stimulating und I always longed for a place for myself. By moving to London I took my own path and defined what and who I want to be and could become.
Independent of your father.
Yes, that was important. My father withdraw from fashion. He works on independent projects. My mother and I work together now and interestingly enough I work with lots of people from Ireland. So far it has been an interesting journey, that I had never dreamt of, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I built something that I am really pleased with.
The realtionship to your mother sounds very close – again, a parallel to Louise Bourgeois. And your father? Does he give you any advice?
Yes, I’m very close to my mother. My father and I also have a very close relationship, but we don’t necessarily talk about work, what also has to do with the fact that we come from two very different generations, fashion-wise. Our opinions differ in that matter. I respect him very much and I’m really lucky to come from a loving family. We always stick together.
So you never had to tear down any walls and rebell?
No. My parents supported me right from the beginning even if they made it clear to me, that I was insane (laughs)
What does fashion mean to you? Identity?
Yes, the very personal identity of each and every one. Whether it is fashion they wear or they like to look at, that moves them and sparks a feeling of togetherness. For me it is neither about a certain moment, nor about events. For me it more about one’s personal collection of clothes.
Do you have a certain type of woman in mind when you design? Or some kind of muse?
No, that seems like a narrow way of thinking to me. There is always a part of me, my mother, my team, my friends, my grandmother in it – i could go on for days. So many types of women and personalities are involved. It is more about a felling of femininty, an umpteen of women. It would seem cruel to me to concentrate on, Nicole Kidman for instance, that would be a reduction. It would exclude so many other types of women. It’d be somewhat eliterian and if there is something I do not like it’s this. A mindset that excludes otherness.
How is your vision of a modern woman?
To be honest I do not have such a vision. I believe that everyone should do what is good and what is right for themselves. Some women want to work, others enjoy their time at home to sew. I do not see why one thing should be more … than the other. And I do not care to pass judgement on that.
Do you have one or two words that would describe what it is about a modern woman, that is important to you? Something like independence?
Independence is important in a sense that you have an opinion of your own and also voice that opinion. Whether it is a traditional view or something more radical, at any rate an opinion of your own – that’s essentional to modern womanhood.
Where you ever afraid of being out of ideas?
That is the only thing, that will hopefully never occur to me. Sometimes it takes time to develop an idea. Maybe I have something in mind that is already familiar to me und from there on I proceed – always with the inner certainty that ideas can grow from minor details. Don’t panic, but rely on your fundemantal trust.
And how do you cope with mistakes?
They annoy me, but that just happens. I don’t despair over it. There were big decisions I had to make in my short career path, but with the right people around you there is always a way. Either I try to let go instantly or I consciously avoid the situation.
How important is discipline?
I could probably be much more disciplined. I think that disciple is important, but what I do comes to me of course. I don’t have to force myself. I’m not sure whether I’m disciplined or not, I never think about it I just do. Discipline, the expression, has something stern and serious about it – there is some sense of complusion about it. I would never say I cant go here or there because I have to work, but I would think: what a pity, I cant go, my work is more important to me right now. It comes from the inside, without much regret,
Simone Rocha Spring / Summer 2016
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Translation: Jessica Aimufua
Birte Carolin Sebastian studied comparative literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and received her doctorate on the reception of Goethe in Munich. Today she lives between Berlin and London, where she works as a freelance writer and actress. Her work has been published in Zeit, FAZ, Vogue, and ICON Magazine. In her acting career, she appeared as the only German actress in the recently aired, Spanish language Arte production Capitan Alatriste as well as in the feature film Lou Andreas Salomé.