Victorian gentility met Provencal romance in one of the strongest collections in years by the London season's most Continental designer John Rocha.
Rocha frequently mingles in ideas he gets from all his "night jobs," into his runway shows, and this spring 2013 collection staged Saturday, Sept. 15, in Somerset House, London was no exception.
One of Rocha's occupations is teaming up with important developers to create distinctive, destination properties. The Morrison, the hotel he designed in Dublin, is still Ireland's top boutique hotel a decade and half after opening; and his latest project is an art installation using 28,000 pieces of Waterford crystal (another key client) at Chateau la Coste in Aix-en-Provence.
So for next spring, the designer mingled together the bold hues of Provence - spicy red, faded leaf yellow and dry clay - with his signature voluminous style. At his best, Rocha manages the delicate balancing of fusing punky shapes with ladylike sensibilities. He did that with flair today, cutting the curvaceous dresses with patrician jacquards, rich guipure and opulent lace; then topping them with Dickensian headgear - huge swirling clouds of organza. Using a spinning top silhouette, whose multi-surface staggered layers of fabrics had an uncanny depth, Rocha created clothes of great distinction that were edgily urban yet charmingly rural at the same time.
"The palette of Provence, its unique light and shadows, well, I fell in love with it in la Coste. No wonder it influenced me," Rocha told FWD post-show.
Rocha is often called Ireland's best designer, but he's also - with the possible exception of Sir Paul Smith - the most personally successful designer in the U.K. His many projects - notably his massive retail business with Britain's biggest department store chain, Debenhams - have made him a very wealthy man. Yet, also one able to remain true to himself, and to the influences and friends he first acquired when moving from his hometown of Hong Kong to Ireland 30 years ago.
No wonder this show felt like a celebration. Rocha has plenty to celebrate.