Simone Rocha must be the most romantic designer working today. The most, because she doesn’t interpret romance as surface prettiness; she evinces a real disdain for the lazy storytelling of rococo frills or wispy lengths of chiffon. Rocha gets at the emotional life of romance, its skipping heartbeat. This season, with a tip of the hat to Pina Bausch, and to Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong, she conjured the ways love can make you feel sideways and see-through, or like a floral bouquet, overripe, reaching out to be touched. Love making you feel languorous, impatient, and dark, dark, dark—as though that throb of constant longing must be so obvious it’s scribbled over you, or growing off of you, like moss. In its best passages, this strong show expressed the torch song tawdriness of romance. For god’s sake, there was even marabou.
Fabrication was key here. You could even say it was the central focus of this collection. Rocha has always been ambitious with her textiles, but what felt new this season was the sensitivity and specificity with which she deployed them: a light touch of embroidery on pink mesh, the graphic counterpoint of floral embellishment on a sheer white sheath, that lurid marabou snaking around a dress of silvery brocade. Black or white cloque introduced a tone of reserve, its tactility serving less as an invitation to be touched than as a kind of shell. Love can make you hard and aloof, too. Rocha’s genuinely weird looks merging nude mesh and white cloque seemed suggestive of the schizophrenia of romance—the vulnerability and fear of same. We are tender. We grow walls.
Those pieces will prove challenging at retail. Not so the breakthrough looks here: Rocha forged new ground with the gaudy red floral in the collection. This was her first significant use of print, and she entered it into her aesthetic vocabulary with real aplomb, making it three-dimensional via appliqué. The simple red floral dress appliquéd all along the hem and down either side was the standout look of the show. It made your heart skip a beat. It made you fall—at least a little—in love.