Fall 2023 Ready-to-Wear

Lughnasadh (or Lughnasa) is the Irish harvest festival that goes back to pagan times, and tangentially about which Brian Friel wrote a great play. Before Christianity’s arrival and ever since, but differently, it has acted as a counterpoint to Beltane: a moment to offer thanks for summer’s bounty, and a moment for communities to commingle. This evening on the blood red carpet of Westminster’s cavernous Central Methodist Hall, Simone Rocha used Lughnasadh as a vehicle for a forward expansion of her design language that last season’s addition of menswear to her catalog has catalyzed.

“I started looking into the rituals of relationships because I wanted to continue to show women and men together: how they correspond,” said Rocha before the show. That correspondence, or dialogue, has already been heard at retail. She said of her menswear: “we have men buying it, we have women buying it, and that’s been really natural.”

The models walked around the first level circle of the hall before carefully descending the ornate central staircase to skirt the rows of those seated below. On stage a group of musicians conjured a brooding, sometimes sinister, and very Celtic sounding composition. Rocha’s coming together for harvest, to reap what had earlier been sown, started with a three part sunrise of all-gold womenswear looks in cloque whose surface was puckered like a heap of matured wheat-seed. These were in typically bounteous silhouettes, full in arm and skirt. Spaced around them were darker looks including one menswear ensemble consistent with a classically cut black car coat—but in cloque—over a nappa pant (a four-seasons-past foray apart, this collection also contained Rocha’s sole leather offerings, she said). Perry Ogden of Pony Kids renown—another work of art exploring Irish rituals and living—wore a fine black double breasted top coat in Linton tweed cut with lurex.

As the looks unfolded and the tempo of the soundtrack gathered melodic urgency, you began to imagine the venue’s founding fathers feeling aflutter at the increasingly wanton, albeit very poetic, overtones within this collection. The red ribbons that fell from the hair, garments, and sometimes eyes of certain models were meant to represent blood traditionally daubed on children’s faces to ward off ill spirits and bad luck. The (highly flammable) raffia stuffed into and supporting a series of intricately felt-embroidered, mostly womenswear lace gowns—rural crinolines—spoke of hay bales productively disordered. These carried a richly contradictory tension between the ostensible primness of silhouette and the tumbled suggestion of their fabrication. Women’s slip dresses and underpinnings, and a taut bungee tank top for men served to emphasize the bodies within. Two final all-raffia dresses were totemic. “It’s lust and love and that idea of ritual,” offered Rocha.

Phew: and all these sideways glances were not the only back and forth at play. The menswear pieces were fascinating on several levels, and in ways that broke their gendered levee and intermingled into the womenswear. One key motif was naval/maritime in the sailor collars and the peacoats with bomber arms and the wonderfully cut “puddle” trousers. Ebbing against that was workwear and Sunday-best formal—all rented asunder by cut-and-pasting elements—which was then muddied and repositioned by the insertion of lace.

These cut-and-paste mashup pieces, beautiful, were the flow against which ebbed similarly reformed gowns such as that worn by Samantha Morton. A dreamy black nappa car coat worn above a lurex linton kilt for men (and a cracking furry and stoned slide) on a male came after a counterpoint brown coat equivalent and pleated skirt on a female. There were some wonderfully subtle technical details, crossed nylon webbing on jacket arms and that bungee tank, that the designer happily conceded had entered her lexicon thanks to her time working with Moncler: “It made me much more appreciative of the technicality of garments.” Standing stone graphics and new plays on Rocha’s logo by a group of friend creatives added extra texture to a collection that was already aflame with it. She sewed, we reaped.

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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