a touch of bourgeois at simone rocha spring/summer 18

From the simplest white dresses to the most opulently baroque pieces.

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18 September 2017, 4:04am

Skeeter Davis' melancholic masterpiece The End of the World sorrowfully spilled out the speakers at the finale of Simone Rocha's spring/summer 18 show, and it perfectly encapsulated of the young Irish designer's collection. Davis' mixture of overwrought emotional heaviness and stripped back sentiment is a nice figure for Simone's designs this season.

There's something a little Louise Bourgeois about Simone's codes, styles, themes and motifs; that emphasis on the places where two opposing ideas combine; that play-off between strength and fragility, something sinister but beautiful, majestic but welcoming. The way, too she plays with played out codes of femininity (dresses, tulle, florals, embroidery, almost-Victoriana, pretty little pearls) and imbues them all with a new and devastating power. She has a cleverness and lightness-of-touch in handling them, and makes them quietly overwhelming. Packed in close in narrow alleys of chairs in Middle Temple's masculine wood-panelled chambers, lined with portraits and busts and grand stained glass windows, only emphasised their femininity in contrast.

The Louise Bourgeois nods were there, most noticeably in the embroidery this season, flashing across white dresses in human outlines, and matched in dangling blood red jewellery. They were there on the invites too, and the opening lines of her show notes. "Red Dolls" she called them, like the kind you cut out of folded paper as a child.

The human-touch of embroidery, as Bourgeois well know, lends everything a feminist weight. Such a basic act of fashion-making that's loaded with enough symbolism to weigh you down. There's something homely in embroidery; in its simplicity. But equally, in its repetitive acts it can be both maddening and therapeutic. All those associations were brought to the surface by Simone's hand, who'd embroidered human figures in endlessly repeating spirals round the dresses.

It's these little unsettling moments that anchors the pure and simple luxurious aesthetic power of the rest of what Simone does; there's no shade without light, after all. So yes, the actual dresses are actually incredibly beautiful and powerful and wonderful, and they strike awe into you, as they swish past, in the simplest whites to most opulently baroque pieces that combined so effortlessly Simone's many codes and ideas (multiple sheer layers of tulle, deep red embroidery, delicate yellow floral patterns). Mere description doesn't really do them justice.

Louise Bourgeois used clothes in her artwork to show us the fabric of who she was, in all her Freudian horror and glory and duality and paradox and multiplicity. Which seems a better way of getting to the centre of Simone's world.