Why red flowers?” I asked Simone Rocha, referring to the blood red blooms embroidered on dresses or even socks.
“It was taken from the colour of anger – but I was trying to do it in a peaceful way, through flowers,” said Simone backstage, standing with models of different ages, some definitely of an older generation.
“It's really mixing red and pink with the idea of foliage, so it starts off all green, goes through black and then I’ve added masculinity in the tailoring,” explained the designer. “I've played with the idea of masculinity and femininity, including the way we have cast the show, inclusive of different types of women.”
Words cannot describe the beauty and the strength of this collection which seemed to catch the global vibe of anger but turned swords into ploughshares in the most mindful way. Off with the frills representing the girlish innocence of Simone's previous collections. Goodbye to Irish farmland for escapes and escapades. Farewell to the Church and its pious little dresses. You could envisage this sober new woman in her dark fur saying farewell to her husband, maybe to her entire family, as she joined the marching band.
Not that there was anything elegiac or mournful about the Simone Rocha collection. The reverse was true. The women seemed purposeful and their clothes as intricately put together as in previous presentations.
The show opened with a belted coat and skirt in the brown of a muddy battlefield, but lush in its thick velvet. The designs moved on to khaki, and then black, but these military coats were feminised by a curving cut around the broad belts. Then came the flowers: primroses smothering dark tulle that was strapped and belted with leather.
“It was my interpretation of armour as a kind of camouflage and how it can be done through foliage,” Simone said. “So I’ve embedded all these nuances into the fabrication, like the organza with embroidered flowers.”
Those arriving for the show in the grand surroundings of a royal palace found a sheet of paper with a few key lines. They were laid out like a poem with these words: “armour, camouflage, foliage, peace, peace of mind.” There were more lists of words: “protection, feminine, famine,” and “archivists, dirt and grit.”
It is rare to find a designer who can express poetry through words, rather than clothes. But Simone Rocha's skill was to do both: to live up to these evocative phrases in what she made.
The most significant expression was that against every drab background, there was always hope: a dull black coat, but smothered with black embroidery; an all-embracing black fur – but with a fluffy white fur sash. The blood red flowers bloomed not only as embroidery on dresses, but also as big floral crystals on a fur stole.
In some ways this was the most ‘masculine’ show Simone has ever done in terms of the cut and sobriety of the clothes. But not really, because even if her women might dress for a battle, you could feel that the fight was to sustain female strength.
Simone has benefited as a woman and as a designer from the support of her close-knit family, who were with her last week in Manhattan for the opening of her first American store. She has fought for her success. But the power of this collection lies in that she was designing to show that women could find a way to lay down their arms.