Back to the future for Rocha collection

ARAN island fishermen’s hats have not often been worn with Victorian silk blouses nor would traditional Irish crochet have been seen with Prince of Wales’ check.

But they all seemed to blend in effortlessly for John Rocha, as one of Ireland’s biggest fashion success stories brought a little bit of home to London Fashion Week.

The Dublin-based designer’s Spring/Summer 2007 collection was unveiled to a packed venue of international press, buyers and a few celebrities, in the grounds of London’s Natural History Museum yesterday.

Rocha brought together many opposites — modern and traditional, masculine and feminine, utilitarian and romantic, tailored and decorative — and put them together to create a collection of craftsmanship and quality.

The “wizard with the scissors” lived up to his reputation.

Sleeveless jackets, cropped cargo pants and parkas were all slightly altered, with textural ruffles and mixed patchwork added.

His collection showed great attention to detail, with hand crochet appearing on straps, adding charm to little silk dresses, and pieces of knitted lace decorating shorts and leggings.

The clothes also reflected his love for subtle, enchanting colour as a clean palette of black, ivory and silver were combined with khaki, powder and stone shades.

Speaking after the show, Rocha said: “I mixed a lot of traditional handcraft with modern form. This collection is about layering and soft touch, and at the same time, its all based around natural fibres. I made all the pieces in a certain way so that people can make their own style out of them.”

Born in Hong Kong, of Chinese and Portuguese decent, Rocha moved to London in the seventies to study fashion. The choice of Irish linen for his graduate collection inspired him to visit Ireland and make Dublin his home.

Rocha said Ireland influenced every piece of clothing he has designed. “This collection was all handcrafted in Ireland, so naturally there is a touch of Irish in everything,” he said. “All the accessories, the crochet and knitted hats and the shoes, they are all very Irish.”

Clumpy black platform shoes, worn by all models as well as his own daughter, Simone, who sat in the front row, were one of the biggest attractions of the show, especially when contrasted with the delicate designs.

Rocha, joined by his team of about 20 designers, believes that Irish fashion “has always existed” but needs to get more recognition on the world stage.

“It is important for Irish designers to showcase on the world stage, here in London, but also in Paris and Milan as well. I know it is not easy, it is often very difficult, but it just has to be done,” he said.

That will continue to be done today, as Orla Kiely sets up her showcase in the British Fashion Council’s Exhibition tent, with particular attention expected to be drawn to her signature bags.

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