The designer staged a show full of grace at Southwark Cathedral, where models walked down the long stone aisle dressed in lovingly distorted takes on communion dresses, wedding and baptismal gowns.
Inspired by a recent exhibition in Ireland that featured photographs by Jackie Nickerson of farm girls alongside paintings, one of them entitled “The Catholic Girls” by the Irish artist William John Leech, Simone Rocha worked her signature plays on volume into a collection that was both ethereal — and earthy.
She created her own broderie anglaise — in white or black — working it into dresses with puffed shoulders and chunky knots on the sleeves; tops that were patch-worked with lace; or a girlish collar that popped from under a long, dark glen plaid check dress.
Rocha also worked miles of sheer silk organza and tulle into long gossamer dresses adorned with embroidered flowers. Some had drooping hems, and looked as if they were torn.
Workaday elements provided a cool contrast: There were long and slim red gingham dresses in the mix and sheer plastic coats, both of which were adorned with small flowers or broderie anglaise. Tall boots had a sturdy, no-nonsense look and were finished with plain or colored Perspex heels, another Rocha signature.
Some of the models wore cross-body bags slung across their backs. They were done in a mix of plastic, napa and cloque, and their ample, unconstructed shapes looked perfect for holding babies — or potatoes.
“I wanted to take those land girls from the farm and bring them to a pure place,” said Rocha, adding that she also liked the idea of mixing the synthetic and the earthy; putting something together and then having it fall apart; and creating distorted shapes with the lumpy bags.
Once again, Rocha produced haiku-ish liner notes — “cotton poplin and broderie anglaise/hard-working days,” read one stanza — and to round off the collection’s other-worldy mood, she told some guests backstage after the show: “Everyone will take holy communion now.”