Now that I'm back in London for a good fortnight or so – a vaguely long length of time considering how much travelling I've done this year – I've been wading through London Fashion Week folder from last season. Supposedly I'm meant to be clearing out in preparation for the S/S 12 shows in September. Now's the time though when nights are falling earlier, the weather is turning and appropriately, lush autumn winter stock is dropping into shops.
John Rocha's beautiful gem of a store on Dover Street is looking particularly full and healthily stocked with layers of underrated romantic textures that creeped about the A/W 11-12 collection. I know I've pulled the 'underrated' line about John Rocha before but honestly, I just don't see enough of his work shot, featured or otherwise. When young guns rise in cycles (with Rocha's own daughter being one of them…), it seems we forget about their predecessors.
Rocha is no deep dark secret in the industry. His longtime collaborative work with Debenhams and more recently Waterford crystals have made him a household name and it is with those lucrative deals in mind, that makes rediscovering Rocha's artistry and dedication to craftsmanship in his own line deeply satisfying. Despite his twenty years in the business, unlike his contemporaries' collections that are still shown in London (no names named…), there's still something that stirs me about Rocha's collections.
Whilst being able to straddle a wide array of design fields (architecture, product, fashion, interiors), it is the tiniest details in his fashion work that draws you in. For a tactile fiend such as myself, touching his hand crochet, pressed wools, tinselled yarns, textured tweeds, loops of yarn as if doodled onto a dress and tightly packed smocking is a delight for the fingers as well as of course the wearing. Weirdly my friend Anthony Vaccarello and Rocha both incidentally fell onto the work of Pierre Soulages as inspiration – both communicated their vision mainly in black with wildly different results. In the case of Rocha, his pieces are weighted (physically and emotionally… if you'll allow me this bit of whimsy…) with texture that makes his shades of black quite difficult to capture on camera because there's a movement to them created by juxtaposing matt and shiny in varying formations. The opening part of the show is almost overwhelmed with texture and in person, it's Rocha's craftsmanship and obsession with surface detailing that is impressed upon you.
A big story for some was seeing Abbey Lee Kershaw open and close the show… I wonder if there's a personal style resonation as I see a lot of Rocha's pieces falling right into Kershaw's wardrobe in real life judging by her fleeting exits from the shows…
Moving onto the portion where the black is lit up by shades of nude, red and gold, ruffles that resemble little cherry blossoms adorn smocks, pantaloons and skirts that fall up and down in assymetry. There's a touch of Comme about it all but with more of a sense of romance and wild abandonment. Rocha also references the landscapes of Iceland. Now that I've been there in person, I can definitely see Rocha's clothes flitting about the strange rock formations and eerily quiet wide open spaces.
I've already spotlighted the buckled platform bovver boots previously but obviously they need repeated pointing out. Many buckles, a platform heel that is highly manageable and the bonus of walking around feeling like angst is something that is ok to carry around even when you're supposed to be 'over it'. In silver or gold, they make you think of David Bowie which is always a good thing.
I always think there's something both old and new in Rocha's collections. You might have seen some bits before and certain historical periods are recalled but you can never pinpoint it exactly and somehow Rocha rejigs things so that his shows are the hidden gem in London Fashion Week that perhaps don't get shouted enough about.
You'll rarely see me in head to toe black but Rocha's mix of textures made me dig out a few pieces that attempt to edge close to his ways of making black look like there are a million shades in one colour, helped by a John Rocha tinsel headband and the pair of buckled boots which I've been beadily eyeing up since the show…