Last night, the British Fashion Awards — as you may have heard — named Gigi Hadid the International Model of the Year, cementing a stellar 2016 for the supermodel. Less high-profile was the christening of 30-year-old Irish designer Simone Rocha as Designer of the Year, a designation previously bestowed upon Phoebe Philo, Alexander McQueen, and, more recently, J.W. Anderson.
This is an award given by fashion people to fashion people, but Rocha’s luxe-DIY aesthetic, a re-envisioning of the future of womenswear, should make the young designer a household name. Rocha’s bones are built on romantic silhouettes and fabrics with unconventional detailing. Throughout her collections, chiffon gowns showcase the wearer's nipples, flirty peplum dresses run undone at one edge of the hem, and red lace is layered to look like blood. Rocha’s clothes are brashly and unapologetically feminine, with none of the cute connotations that term may carry. They’re defiant in a way that could translate to, say, a chiffon prom dress dredged from a thrift store’s dollar bin and artfully attacked with a pair of scissors.
Rocha’s seductive womenswear long ago found a fan in Rihanna, whose distinctive take on “feminine” dressing aligns well with Rocha’s designs. Rihanna’s brilliantly chameleonic approach to fashion means she can lend the same sartorial gravitas to a scalloped white skirt suit (Simone Rocha, S/S ’15) as an entirely sheer embroidered organza circle skirt with pink panties peeking out (S/S ’14). Rocha is for women who love clothes but don’t take themselves too seriously.
My personal favorite Rihanna/Rocha moment occurred last year, when a giggling Melissa Forde Snapchatted Rihanna aimlessly wandering the aisles of a convenience store in search of snacks, wearing — what else? — shredded denim jorts, a red bustier, and a stunning, embroidered red Rocha coat slung on top. She looked perfectly put-together, and like she couldn’t care less.