Simone Rocha RTW Spring 2023

Designers are still processing the impact that lockdown has had on their own lives, and on the wider culture, and working out — in real time — how people want to dress.

This season some have responded with ultra-practical, back-to-reality collections for people now working between home and office. Others are plumping for more fantasy and focusing on evening, special occasions and event dressing. It’s a fascinating process to watch.

Simone Rocha offered up a different sort of back-to-reality dressing, staging her collection at the Old Bailey, the famous criminal court building where Moll Flanders is tried for theft in the classic novel by Daniel Defoe, and where Charles Darnay is put on trial for treason in “A Tale of Two Cities.”

With that sort of history as her backdrop, Rocha couldn’t resist showing a long and ruffled black judge’s robe, or pumping up the sleeves on an oversize bomber to Henry VIII-style proportions, both part of her new men’s collection. It was back-to-work style for a niche audience.

As usual, this collection was big on drama and Rocha’s signature statement dressing. For spring, the designer said she wanted to channel dynamism, urgency, a sense of moving forward — and even exploding — after so many months of lockdown-induced inertia.

She added utility straps (some of which were embellished with pearls) and drawstrings to her flounces, tulle layers and puffs of fabric, giving her looks a practical edge. Utility shoulder straps held a tiered ruffle dress in place; accompanied a long lasagna ruffle down the front of a tuxedo shirt, and dangled lazily from the tulle layers of peachy pastel ballerina skirts and flouncy mermaid hemlines.

There were straps dangling everywhere, often too many.

Rocha’s beautiful motifs — sparkly flora and fauna — also had a utilitarian edge. The designer said she was thinking about flowers and herbs as a means of healing after the pandemic. An abstract echinacea design blossomed across a sheer white shirt, while bright green sequined flowers drifted across a soft pink dress.

This was a busy collection — too busy and overworked in some cases — but it’s likely that whoever wears these pieces will get a rush of optimism, even if they have to return to a five-day work week at the most famous courthouse in the world.

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