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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Spring/Summer 2015 Simone Rocha

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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.

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Autumn/Winter 2014-15 Simone Rocha

Autumn/Winter 2014-15 Simone Rocha presented her most polished collection yet. After last season’s dalliance with a darker, edgier side she returned to a sweeter, feminine flourish, but refined it. She took an Elizabethan silhouette with skirts exaggerated at the hips, cut them short and added belts crafted from plastic jewellery, the sort that looked like they might have come from those DIY boxed kits from Hamleys. They also trimmed shoulders and necklines.

Shapes felt buoyantly courtly, but not costume – hair and make-up helped to that end with punkish messy braids modernising proceedings. Standout renditions came in yellow python skin, and a high shine plasticised moss green lace. She took the trench coat and reworked it into cropped proportions, tightly belted and partnered with skirts with that same volume.

Girlish shapes aside, she turned her attention to trousers, too; ankle-skimming and boyish they erupted in ruffles at the pockets. Some of the best debuted in seersucker red tartan. Upping the luxe factor were streamlined coats in glossy black pony skin and fuzzy shearling but cut narrow to flatter.

To shop more Simone Rocha visit: www.simonerocha.com or click below to shop the latest Autumn/Winter Collection now: