It's black magic as Rocha bewitches with rich fashion drama
TWENTY-five shades of black were just about enough for fashion guru John Rocha to hammer home the impact of single-colour dressing.
His exciting and intuitive use of textures and fabrics meant the London Fashion Week crowd weren't left gloomy.
Tattered georgette ruffles and shredded fabrics with rough salvages created stunning three-dimensional drama on the catwalk at Somerset House as his models took to the catwalk.
Rocha's take on black is rooted in 25 shades but, at his own confession, his palette is more textural than colour-based. It is through the juxtaposition of fabrics and unexpected surfaces that Rocha achieves his rich fashion drama.
His autumn/winter 2010 collection is bewitching and this was one of the most keenly anticipated shows on the second day of London Fashion Week. One minute restrained with sheer, feminine silhouettes in silk, the next minute a model was draped in botanical spikes and reptilian spines created by rolling up cones of leather.
Wool jackets and coats were layered up with hairy skins or smooth, uneven leather tippets, while matt fabrics were embellished with a patchwork effect of Italian lace or shimmering stitching.
Rocha confessed that the opening outfit of the show, a sleeveless black, leather dress with swirling, textural surfaces and a full skirt, was his favourite. "That dress was absolutely one of my best pieces. It's all about handcraft, all made in Ireland, done by Irish craftspeople and they show the world how to do it."
Yes, there were other colours in the show -- appealing buttery creams and soothing ashen pinks, along with browns and greys. There were wonderful shoes in metallic silver, reminiscent of the Irish dancing shoes he re-worked for the catwalk two seasons ago.
The Dublin-based, Hong Kong-born designer moved effortlessly between cultural reference points -- from Argentinian gauchos, dandy Edwardian ruffians, to Mayan battle dress. Even those tall bowlers favoured by U2 guitarist The Edge in the band's 'Rattle and Hum' days featured in his multi-layered menswear offerings.
Despite recessionary times, Rocha was upbeat. "People always buy clothes. People always want to look good so you have to give them something very special to enjoy."
His advice to young people going into the rag trade, like his daughter Simone, is "follow your dream and do the best you can".
After more than a quarter of a century in business, Rocha has expanded into parallel design worlds of architecture, interiors, jewellery, crystal and an affordable diffusion range for high-street store Debenhams.
The audience was packed tightly, while outside disappointed fans hung around after failing to get in and watched it on a live stream.
Front-row guests including couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo and they were on their feet at the end, clapping to the music chosen by John's son Max, a second-year university student.
Afterwards friends, family and colleagues from the world of fashion gathered in the art deco magnificence of Claridge's hotel. Bubbles were served in the signature black champagne flutes he designed for Waterford Crystal. Rocha and his wife Odette moved amongst the guests, who included handbag designer Lulu Guinness, jewellery designer Lara Bohinc, artist Guggi, developer Harry Crosbie and his wife Rita, music entrepreneur John Reynolds and Avril Shanley, and the fashion team from Havana in Donnybrook.