London’s Old Bailey is an institution as iconic as the monarchy itself, the site of countless grim and salacious trials from Britain’s history, from Oscar Wilde to the Kray twins. Today it served an even more unexpected role: as a runway. The Irish fashion designer Simone Rocha took over the Old Bailey’s remarkable marble-lined foyers to showcase her Spring/Summer 2023 collection, a co-ed offering that experimented with codes of masculinity and femininity.
“This collection was very much a reaction to the last few years,” Rocha explained in the show’s notes. “It was very much harnessing an emotion that felt like this kind of powerful, feminine statement.” That emotion was palpable in a collection that blended utilitarian elements like bomber jackets, harnessing, statement zippers, and parachute detailing with lashings of tulle, delicate floral prints, voluminous puff skirts, deconstructed corsetry, and soft lace veils.
The opening look was the perfect embodiment of these disparate but melodic parts—an oversized bomber jacket covered with delicate tea rose motifs, worn over a sheer tulle skirt with matching floral applique, and accessorised (naturally) with chunky jelly sandals and a clutch handbag in the shape of a very ornate egg. Even more traditional menswear looks (mens is an area Rocha has been slowly wading into, and this collection proved her first fully-realised menswear offering on the runway), like the sharply tailored suit in Look 25, was enlivened with an explosion of face glitter and a brilliant ombre veil. Consider this a vision of healthy masculinity, done the Simone Rocha way.
The collection was met by a standing ovation as a visibly emotional Rocha took to the runway. A synthy version of The Magnetic Fields anti-romance love song ‘All My Little Words’ played, underscoring Rocha’s ability to create breathtakingly, eyewateringly romantic clothing that still retains a distinct edge, a sense of inherent coolness. The front row was packed tight with a constellation of fashion stars: the poet Greta Bellamacina, the singer Celeste, the artist Faye Weiwei, the ballerina Frankie Hayward. Each has their own unique style, and yet each looks every part the ethereal It-girl dripping in Rocha’s lace, tulle, and pearls.