When I was little, I was obsessed with Martha Stewart. Really, truly obsessed. Every night I slept with a stack of her now-defunct publication Martha Stewart Kids towering beside me, and my parents were concerned by how genuinely distraught I was when she went to prison in 2004. I was concerned, too, mostly about Martha’s access to craft supplies, but also because I felt that my love for Martha and all that she stood for (baking, sewing, redecorating your entire house just for Valentine’s day) was at odds with the person I imagined myself to be, someone who wore shoes with fire flames on them and was definitely good at skateboarding. It was, in the most basic, black-and-white way, my early introduction to the fact that I contain multitudes. We all do, of course, and it takes decades to figure out how to express them through personal style. There are seasons of life that skew too tomboyish, too frilly, too fussy, until we find a balance that suits us. Every so often, however, a designer comes along and nails the balance we’ve been looking for all along in one shot–a designer like Simone Rocha.
Simone Rocha treads the same path as greats like Phoebe Philo and Rei Kawakubo; a woman who designs for women. Rocha’s style could easily skew girly-girl saccharine with its swaths of tulle and buckets of pearls, but there’s always something–a furry pair of mules or a studded sock–to bring it back to earth, or at least to a place where you might need to fend off a feral animal with your socks while still looking lovely. It’s worth noting that the majority of the pieces that have become Rocha’s signature are free-waisted and infinitely layerable, i.e. clothes that are actually easy to wear while going about your day.
Rocha is also one of the rarest types of designers who, in the tradition of visionaries like Alexander McQueen, is able to transform bits of her personal heritage into collections that resonate universally with their striking beauty. Take, for example, Rocha’s S/S 2020 show in which she drew inspiration from Irish wren boys–a Celtic folkloric tradition with a tinge of general mischief-making–and translated said inspiration into a 46-look collection that is resplendent and inspiring, regardless of whether or not you’ve ever seen an actual wren boy in the flesh.
Anyway, I could continue to wax lyrical about Rocha for pages and pages, but instead I’ve taken the mental materials I’ve gathered from hours of gazing at her home and listening to her speak about her studio (in a normal, so normal, very not-creepy way, I promise) and turned them into a reimagining of my five favorite Simone Rocha runway looks.
#1: Big Babydoll, F/W 2019
I think it’s pretty clear by now that I can’t resist anything doll-like or pink, but this look is especially good when weighted down with black socks and shoes. Contrast! First it’s sweet, then it’s sour, like an inverse Sour Patch Kid. The overall effect of this look (tulle, headband, puff sleeves) is very dressy, but the silhouette feels breathable rather than buttoned-up.
#2: Everyday Bridal, F/W 2018
I had every intention of wearing this exact Simone Rocha look to my wedding, but the non-runway version produced for stores was made in a fabric far too heavy for a summer day. All’s well that ends well, though, because if you’re dramatic and love wearing white, any day can be your wedding day (regardless of your marital status)! I did, however, wear the barrette and earrings to my wedding, and they’ve hardly left my head since–proof again that there’s never a bad time to be fancy for no reason.
#3: Duvet Day, S/S 2018
I spent many hours searching for a patchwork coat similar to the Simone Rocha one shown here, until I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Instagram storefront of Psychic Outlaw where vintage quilts are repurposed into coats! I sent her a quilt sewn by my great-great grandmother, and she transformed it into this beautiful number. I loved the pattern (and, of course, the sentimental value) of the original quilt, but it had been sitting unused at the foot of my bed for months. Now it’s become a genuinely useful part of my life again which is, in my humble opinion, the best way to celebrate any kind of material thing.
I love that both my coat and Rocha’s utilize the traditionally feminine crafts of quilting and embroidery, but, by the same token, turn said crafts into a garment meant for venturing far beyond the confines of the home–a microcosmic celebration of modern femininity.
#4: The Dress, F/W 2017
This dress, which I purchased at a steep discount from The OUTNET, is still the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever gotten my paws on, save for my wedding dress. It’s one of very few items in my closet that makes me feel precisely like the best version of myself, and, after all the preaching I did above about wearing fancy stuff for the everyday, I must admit that it’s probably the only item in my closet that I save for special occasions. I don’t believe you can have too much of a good thing, but I just want to make sure this dress only sees me at my finest, you know? I’ll be honest, I want to impress her. She deserves it.
#5: 99% Angel, S/S 2017
Here Rocha tempers the sweetness of eyelet lace by transforming it into a utilitarian dress that’s part tea party, part naval uniform. I’d be evading the truth if I didn’t admit that I impulse-bought my dress here on Etsy because of its uncanny resemblance to Rocha’s design. Now all I need are the matching eyelet boots–I stumbled across a pair worn with a dress available on Depop recently, but the seller was quick to mention that the boots were not for sale, as she wanted to be buried in them. A testament to the designer’s greatness if ever there was one…
I believe a certain yin-yang tension exists at the heart of most good design, a pairing of forces that are not diametrically opposed but work in tandem to reveal both sides of a concept. It’s the ladylike-whimsical effect that happens with Prada or the clash of history and future that Gucci fosters. For Simone Rocha, it’s the tension that exists between the traditionally masculine and the traditionally feminine.
There’s a reason that Rocha’s work is followed with a frenzied eye by women across the globe: she gets it. She knows what we want to wear and how we want to feel when we wear it. And when a designer gets something that big, it’s about more than just clothes, it’s about understanding the spirit of an age. It’s having your cake and eating it, existing between binaries and celebrating traditions, running buck wild and still wearing pearls, too.
Photos via Vogue Runway.