Simone Rocha on Nudity

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Nudity always attracts attention,” mused Simone Rocha in the Spring 2015 issue. Though her designer peers may have garnered more of it for their extremist displays in recent months, the perverse belles Rocha sends down her runways have long been brave enough to show off a little T & A. Look back at her graduating collection from Central Saint Martins and you’ll find sheer blazers sans pants strutting out between see-through dresses and blouses. At that time, all came with demurring underpinnings. Two years later, her premiere runway show opened with a translucent lace coat; one year after that, filmy dresses obscured breasts with dotted flowers; and by Fall 2015, her woman was completely free, sauntering the catwalk in a gauzy pale pink number, nipples exposed, with cloudlike padding on the hips. Perhaps it’s been Rocha’s careful progression that’s lessened the shock of her revealing girlishness. Nevertheless, as a female designer, her relationship to the use of nudity is as studied as the garments she creates. Below, Rocha weighs in on her sheer fabrications, celebrity nudity, and the art world icons who influence her work.

As a female designer, do you feel that it is empowering to use the nude female form in your work?

You know, I always like to show some skin. I like for it to feel kind of provocative, and to feel kind of feminine, and to know that somebody has a bust or a waist or a leg—I know we all have legs [laughs]—but I do like that [nudity] enhances the idea of femininity. Because underneath all the clothes that we all wear every day, that’s where our bodies are, and I think the balance of the body meeting fabric can make interesting clothes.

Why did you first start to work with sheer fabrications?

From the very beginning when I was designing, I was working a lot with tulle and with see-through fabrics. It was really to play with how you saw proportion on the body, and it was another way of playing with the silhouette. That was really what drew me to it originally as a designer—the contrast of having something hard and soft or solid and see-through, something that makes you look twice. That combined with a lot of influences that I look at for my collections, like the work of Araki. You know, I didn’t want to ignore the idea of flesh, because it was something that I find very interesting in Araki’s imagery, so I wanted the clothes that I was making to still be able to see that flesh and have that balance. I wasn’t only looking at Araki, but also the artist Louise Bourgeois and all her figures, which are also covered in tapestry but they’re still nude forms. It was a mix of being inspired by things that are very feminine and nude, and not ignoring that when making garments.

Do you think nudity still has a shock factor? The exposed male models at Rick Owens last January were shocking, but exposed female models don’t tend to garner as much buzz.

I don’t think it should be shocking. I, personally, have never done anything sheer for shock value. But I suppose it depends on the designer, if they’re really looking for that shock feeling. I think it’s about human nature at the end of the day; it would be shocking if someone walked into your office topless. But I do think right now is an interesting time; it’s not just nudity—people are being exposed as themselves. Before, if you were exposed, it was as an object or in an objective way, but now people are really being exposed to show themselves and their own personality in their work. It’s a good time to be able to express yourself in that way.

Do you think that the nudity seen on the runways is influencing pop culture? There was a lot of talk at the Met Gala about all of the see-through or sheer bejeweled dresses, and elsewhere, pop figures are using their bodies as their tools for empowerment. I’m curious to see if you think that stems from fashion or it’s just a cultural tide.

I think it’s probably more of a culture thing. There have always been clothes like that at different times in fashion. I don’t know a huge amount of celebrities, but maybe they feel like this is the time that they can wear what they want. I don’t really dress a huge amount of celebrities, so I don’t know what they’re after, but I’d say at this moment in time skin is very in. But for me it’s always been in. You know, in Lucian Freud paintings, people are always naked. Louise Bourgeois sculptures—it’s all bodies naked. So maybe now everybody feels like that.

How do you hope a woman feels when she wears one of your pieces?

I hope that she feels feminine, but at the same time strong and comfortable and real. You know, I don’t want women to feel like they’re in a glass box. I want them to feel very special and relevant and comfortable in their own skin in whatever world that is. I’m very proud to be a female designer designing for women, and I think it’s great that people feel like they can express themselves through dress today. I like that there’s a lot of thought behind things, and I want people to see that in my clothes a lot of thought goes into it. And if they’re having the same thoughts, that means my work is for them.

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Met Gala 2015 Trends

The stars have had their night at the museum, and the red carpet is rolled up for now, but if this year’s gala is anything to go by, then the fashion moments are likely to reverberate into tomorrow morning and beyond. While many touched on the theme, “China: Through the Looking Glass,” only a few embraced a larger-than-life idea of chinoiserie. One stylish attendee who took cues from the impressive Ming-floral vase sculpture in the Met’s great hall? Ivanka Trump whose exaggerated train mimicked the iconic blue and white ceramics.

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Ultimately the majority of guests channeled the aesthetic in a less literal way, by wearing red, and it came in every shade imaginable; scarlet, auburn, and vivid ruby. Amal Clooney even managed to bring some of the grandeur of last year’s Charles James theme with her Maison Margiela couture look.

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The best floral motifs of the night were elegant and restrained, like those worn by Bee Shaffer (hers was by Alexander McQueen) and Marissa Mayer. Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, and Gigi Hadid led the way for old-world glamour in glittering body-skimming dresses, and Sienna Miller showed that tomboys can do sparkles too in her embellished trouser suit.

And speaking of wearing the pants, pajama dressing took on a new life thanks to Jenna Lyons, and Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School. Elsewhere, Liya Kebede and Diane Kruger eschewed diaphanous dresses for trousers, as did Lady Gaga. Naturally the rule-breaking pop star put her own spin on the idea though, finishing off her look with a lattice-like cape. And she wasn’t the only one to go the superheroine route: Janelle Monáe, Lisa Airan, and Hannah Bagshawe wore capes as a dramatic alternative to the straightforward floor-length gown.

Some of the most daring red-carpet wins of the night alluded to the skin in unexpected ways. Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian West both glided in wearing frothy, ethereal, and undeniably sexy confections that relied on carefully placed sequins and feathers—Givenchy and Roberto Cavalli by Peter Dundas respectively. In a gorgeous Calvin Klein Collection dress that had intricate lacing up the side, Kendall Jenner showed that the very notion of a plunging neckline might have shifted for good.

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Met Gala 2015

It was not your average night at the museum. Some 600-odd guests—a list as gilded and varied as to include Olsens Mary-Kate and Ashley, Henry Kissinger, George and Amal Clooney, Kelly Slater and Beyoncé—wound their way through the red-carpet tumult tonight (louder and more boisterous than ever, spurred on, perhaps, by the unseasonably warm evening and the high concentration of star value present) and into the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s entrance hall, dominated for tonight only by a gigantic chinoiserie vase created entirely by white and blue roses.

Up the grand staircase lined by fragrant, verdant bamboo they walked, past Vogue staffers clad in pale jade and lapis–toned Michael Kors pajamas, custom-made for the event; the biggest and boldest night on fashion’s calendar—the Met Gala.

“It is about cultural interaction, the circuits of exchange through which certain images and objects have migrated across geographic boundaries. . . . It points to the aesthetic importance of exploring all the products of our cultural fantasies,” read a plaque in one of the three floors of galleries taken over by “China: Through the Looking Glass“—some 30,000 square feet representing the past 300 years of Western fashion and several millennia of Chinese history, Andrew Bolton explained at the morning’s press conference—the largest in the Met’s history, put on with the help of honorary chair Silas Chou and cochairs Jennifer Lawrence, Gong Li, Marissa Mayer, Wendi Murdoch, and Anna Wintour.

“Ladies, ladies!” Kanye West called after the departing figures of his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and Jennifer Lopez as they walked into the fete. (There was a resulting iPhone photo-op involving two very similar dresses and two singularly appreciated rear views.)

Inside the exhibition, Julianne Moore admired a Lucite field of bamboo shielding Craig Green’s designs. “It’s so breathtaking, really,” said Moore. A headdressed Sarah Jessica Parker (“It’s fashion with a capital ‘F,’” said her date, Andy Cohen) took in a selection of qipaos before admiring the calligraphy room, housing a pair of dresses by Dior and Chanel, respectively.

A demurely sequined Cher was squired by her date, Marc Jacobs, into the cocktail party in the Temple of Dendur, where George and Amal Clooney mugged affectionately under Mario Testino’s lens and Sienna Miller and Taraji P. Henson received praise for their roles in Cabaret and Empire, respectively. Kendall Jenner shimmied for Olivier Rousteing, the pair both clad in thick lozenge-like crystal embroidery, while Justin Bieber, in sunglasses and dragon-embroidered blazer, looked on.

As the party made way for dinner, Jared Kushner had his hands full. “I’m following her around all night; she’s being paid to clean the floor,” said Kushner with a wink of his wife, Ivanka Trump, and her crowd-parting navy and white train. Gilles Mendel nodded in solidarity, “It looks beautiful now, these long trains, but you should see the dresses once we get them back.” Dinner led to a surprise performance by a late-arriving Rihanna (clad in a commotion-causing fur-lined marigold-coloured robe by Chinese designer Guo Pei) and a raucous dance party: Bad news for the trains, maybe, but if we learned anything tonight, it’s that fashion has a way of rising above.