Simone Rocha judge Wallpaper * Design Awards 2022
British womenswear designer, whose brand recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, talks about milestones, escapes and her selection for the 2022 Wallpaper * Design Awards
Simone Rocha is on top of a festive high. His eponymous label – adored for its quirky romanticism – marked its tenth year in business with a traveling hymn to its curious blend of strength and opulence. An A-frame church installation with ornate screen-printed panels and plexiglass roses appeared in London at Dover Street Market before heading to the Rocha store in New York. “I wanted something physical that people could rally around to mark the decade and pull us out of the pandemic… at least that’s what we thought,” she says.
For many of us, the strangeness of the times has distracted attention from material gestures of pomp and ceremony. “I’m not really spiritual, which is funny because I grew up in Ireland, which is largely Catholic, but it’s something that I love to dig and explore,” says Rocha. “I am very proud to be ten years old. It’s as if a tome of a book has closed and I’m now at tome two. It’s a good feeling.
The Wallpaper * Design Awards 2022 celebrate places and products that lift our spirits. Rocha, winner of our Best Fashion Future award in 2014, was part of this year’s jury to award our highest accolades, the Judges’ Awards. Seduced by its modular appearance and its function, it was very seduced by Francis Kéré’s Slak campus, located on the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya and nominated for the best public building. “I thought it sounded amazing. I loved its lasting integration into the landscape and the fact that it was a place of education. The emphasis is on what goes on inside as much as what it looks like.
Slak education campus, Kenya, by Francis Kéré / Kéré Architecture, Rocha’s choice for best public building at the Wallpaper * Design Awards 2022. Photography: Kéré Architecture
Architecture and interior space are linked throughout the Rocha process. Very early on, she made sure to link the locations of her shows to her vision of historical pageantry. “I almost see architecture as another fabric in the collection – it’s a backdrop. One show that always stays with me is A / W 2014. I was honored to be able to perform in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern as it provided a stark contrast to the clothes. I think about this show a lot, ”she says.
As a judge, Rocha relished the chance to explore different types of crafting. “I loved that everything nominated seems very unexpected. It included buildings that looked very large that then contrasted with very intimate things, ”she says. “It also really brought out the moments that we had. The things I loved were all about nature and the countryside. I guess it just reflects how we all feel and what we might be looking for right now. It was a nice escape for me to do that.
The Space of Mind booth, by Studio Puisto, Made by Choice and Protos Demos, was Rocha’s choice for Life-Enhancer of the Year in the Wallpaper * Design Awards 2022. Photography: Marc Goodwin
The importance of escape is reflected in the collaboration between architects Studio Puisto, design company Made by Choice and interior maker Protos Demos. Their Space of Mind cabin – joint winner of the Life-Enhancer of the Year category – is a modular structure of just under 10 m² that can be installed with minimal disturbance to its surroundings. It is a complete ecosystem for hospitality. Rocha was drawn to her otherworld: “It reminded me of a lot of those ancient structures that dot Ireland that you could go to if you were walking across the country and needed a place to rest. ”
The Rock by Gort Scott, in Whistler, Canada, was Rocha’s choice for best private home at the 2022 Wallpaper * Design Awards. Photography: Rory Gardiner
Having the luxury of not thinking, or decluttering the brain, is crucial, and she was particularly drawn to the setting of Gort Scott’s The Rock house, a family home on a rocky outcrop in the Canadian hill station of Whistler. . “I imagined myself walking around the house and experiencing the landscape in different ways. This is how I disconnect. It’s important for your job, but also just to feel like you have a personality! I have no problem switching off – when I have time. ‘
Participation in this year’s awards gave Rocha a moment – between working on her next collection and concluding a momentous year – to rejoice in what design can do. “The pace is relentless, but at the same time, it’s what gives you energy. The best thing is to turn something that is part of you into something physical that resonates with someone else. If it makes them feel anything, then this is the pinnacle. §