Simone Rocha’s Fall/Winter 2022 show on Sunday night was just as enchanting as her audience had hoped. Even for those who watch online, like me, there was something magically captivating about the collection that made it hard to look away from the screen.
Rocha wanted to capture the “melancholic beauty” of the Irish fairy tale, Children of Lir (the original inspiration for the Swan Lake ballet). In the ancient story, a new bride turns her four stepchildren into swans, jealous of her husband’s attention to them. Aodh, Fionnula, Fiachra and Conn are spellbound to spend 900 years swimming above the lakes. And yet, as swans, they can still sing, and thus use their melodies to communicate the truth of their metamorphoses to their father.
“The models glide in a constantly flowing circle, as if they were real swans floating on the water”
It’s clear from the opening of Rocha’s AW22 show that this is a different type of collection. It tells a story through every detail of each garment, with patterns from the old fairy tale intertwined with the brand’s own elements that are so adored by Rocha fans: feminine, floaty gauze fabrics, puff sleeves, crystal bags and sparkling jewelry.
There is a deep seriousness to be felt throughout the show, achieved by the moving classical music and the darkness of the setting at Lincoln’s Inn in London. An almost religious atmosphere is created, adding to the otherworldly feeling that accompanies the designs. Space itself becomes the lake that the children of Lir were destined to swim endlessly; the models glide in a constantly flowing circle, as if they were real swans floating on the water.
The stage is therefore perfectly set for the clothes themselves, which shine mystically and magically through the surrounding dark space. Black and white contrasts make up many pieces, hinting at the seriousness of this story, while several deep blue pieces stand out beautifully. In particular, the rich blue velvet robes are a visual delight, evoking the texture of a swan’s feather while suggesting the sadness behind the tale and the hue of deep water.
Outfits are carefully constructed through layers of fabrics in contrasting textures and colors, sparkling with intricate details and accessory designs. The pearl and crystal accessories for which Rocha is famous now appear as jewels around the eyes of the models, as well as studded on knee-high socks and around knitted balaclavas, as if they were water droplets still shimmering on the silken wings of a swan. Patent leather is another recurring material, adding to the wet look. Meanwhile, occasional glimpses of gingham seem like a reminder of the children lost behind their swan facades.
“It’s as if Rocha confided a secret to us”
Thus, the clothes play on the boundaries between the human and the swan, showing the metamorphosis as it occurs before our eyes. The wings popped in Look 12, shining against the otherwise all-black outfit. Large white ruffles in other looks, especially in skirts, also allude to the wings of a swan. Even pointy-toed shoes were designed to evoke beaks. In Look 27, two swans are embroidered on the weightless fabric, from which hangs a feather, their necks creating the shape of the heart which is a recurring motif throughout the collection. Other models wear ballet flats that echo Swan Lake and showcasing the female power behind Rocha’s designs. She creates her work uncompromisingly through the female gaze, highlighting different types of femininity and imbuing typically feminine designs with her own subtle meanings.
I particularly like the heart that appears on the back of the Look 22, only revealed when the model has turned away. It’s as if Rocha gives us a secret, revealing the love that the tale contains, just as children must secretly reveal the truth through songs for their father.
Finally, the red embellishments suddenly burst as the latest designs enter the scene, emphasizing that love underlies the tale, but also the jealousy, anger, betrayal and grief that accompany it.
We see a fairy tale of metamorphosis unfold through Rocha’s creations, which create an ethereal, moving and serious atmosphere — there is indeed something melancholy about the performance, especially when combined with the set. and the music. But, without a doubt, the AW22 collection delights its audience with every step the models take, every spotlight that illuminates the stage and every note of the swan song in the background.
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