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D e Beauvoir Town in Hackney is known for many things, but bucolic views is not one of them. A place where unsettling things are made. Girly motifs — pearls, flowers, tulle — are worked jarringly with Perspex or embroidered plastic. Ravaged hairstyles sit atop restrictive, embroidered Victorian dresses. Nature has played a role in her collections, too, but never as somewhere nice to have a picnic. Unbelievable leaves wrapped round a modern building, like those outside her office window, seem like something she could have dreamed up for herself.
Her work has certainly struck a chord. Fashion industry recognition was instant. She showed her Central Saint Martins graduation collection at Fashion East in , a prestigious showcase for young designers. Everyone from Rihanna to Gillian Anderson has worn her clothes. The trick, she explains in her friendly but firm way, is to find the intimate and expose it. So when I had a baby it really influenced the collection, because I felt terrible.
I make better work if I let my guard down and put myself into it. There are less visceral inspirations for her clothes, too. And her emphasis on traditional craft techniques and textiles — particularly unusual space-age fabric hybrids, such as laminated leather and plasticised crochet — mean her designs are much more than the emotions embodied in clothes.
I thought how amazing it would be to do something shiny, so we coated lace to make it wet-look. Then I wanted something else that came from the sea so that was the pearls… It all came from being in a place. She still prefers to work in 3D on models or stands rather than sketching like a typical designer. In fact, John Rocha also won a designer of the year award at the British Fashion Awards, back in She is severely dyslexic and not very academic.
She moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins. She was taught by Louise Wilson , the ferocious professor of fashion who seems to have single-handedly shaped the current generation of British designers. These are not things you achieve through family connections. She was just incredibly inspiring. In a fashion landscape currently dominated by conglomerates whose multiple brands churn out between four and six collections annually — not to mention the cosmetics and lifestyle spin-offs — Simone Rocha is an oddity.