Simone Rocha on Rei Kawakubo and Dressing for Comfort

The London-based designer is half Irish and half Chinese. And her eclectic background made her feel right at home when she opened her first store in New York City.
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Since her debut at London Fashion Week in 2010, Irish designer Simone Rocha’s pieces have become synonymous with historical references, delicate details, and silhouettes of empowered femininity. Just last year, she opened her first store in New York City (next to Céline) with her own furnishings and installations, as well as art from Ren Ri, Robert Rauschenberg, and Louise Bourgeois. Up next? A Francis Bacon piece will be installed in the store this spring as a secret, surprise extension of her photo zine project, which is free to fans in stores.

It’s been a year since you opened up your New York store. What’s significant about that to you?

It’s been unbelievable to see so many amazing New York women in the clothes and to have a place that people can come and see my work from all different disciplines, from fashion and art.


As a designer, do you more strongly identify with New York, London, or Ireland?

It’s so hard because it’s all of them. It’s kind of funny because, even though I’m based in London and educated in London, I’m half Irish and half Chinese, so I’ve always been from a very eclectic background, which has made me very comfortable in New York as a designer.


You were at the Comme des Garçons show in October in Paris and Dover Street Market was one of the first shops to pick up your line. What’s it like being in that family?

It’s the only show that I go to. I always absolutely love it. I’m very lucky to be a part of that family, so I get to go to the show in Paris every season. Dover Street Market was the first store internationally to pick up my line, and I’ve been working with them ever since.


What was it like the first time you met Rei Kawakubo?

The very first time was actually when she came to see my collection and before I was stocked in Dover Street Market. It was a little surreal because I was still very young and a huge fan of their whole ethos.


Who else do you look up to in the world of fashion?

I’ve always really admired the historical houses like Balenciaga, but at the same time, the people I really admire are those who built independent businesses like myself or Rick Owens.

"In the way that I’m a woman designing for women, so the physicality of the clothes is something that very naturally happens when I’m designing."

How has having a father who is also a designer impacted your work?

I was very lucky and fortunate to grow up in a creative environment. His understanding of fabrication and silhouette is much more organic than what I do, but being able to see that—and all that handicraft—has really influenced my work. I also think it’s really important to respect your elders.


Is comfort important to you as a designer?

It is, in the way that I’m a woman designing for women, so the physicality of the clothes is something that very naturally happens when I’m designing. Especially with my shoes. They’re very ergonomic and I want them to be very comfortable on the body.


If you had to describe your aesthetic is just a few words, what would you say it is?

I would probably say it’s my interpretation of modern femininity for today.

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