Simone Rocha rising to the challenge

Renowned designer and Fashion Challenges Forum speaker Simone Rocha talks about growing her eponymous brand

Simone Rocha

Held in November as part of the dynamic Fashion Asia Hong Kong programme bringing together leaders, creators and innovators from various areas within the fashion industry, the Fashion Challenges Forum 2022 provided an opportunity for local and international audiences to explore real-world fashion issues together. Among the many industry leaders who shared their experiences and expertise was Simone Rocha, who spoke about the challenges of transitioning from an emerging designer to an established global brand in the panel entitled “Creating Tomorrow’s Brands”.

“It was great to meet so many young designers at the Fashion Challenges Forum that are forging their own paths,” says Rocha, who debuted her eponymous label at London Fashion Week in September 2010 and has since developed it into an internationally renowned brand with stand-alone stores in London, New York, Hong Kong and Taipei.

“You could feel a real sense of creativity and urgency. This was the first trip I’ve made to Hong Kong where I was much more aware of [that kind of energy]. So I think the Forum played a big part in that.” Rocha, who was born in Dublin and studied fashion at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin as well as Central Saint Martins in London, has personal ties to Hong Kong as the daughter of locally-born fashion designer John Rocha.

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“It’s always really influenced me being mixed-race – being from Ireland and also from Hong Kong – and growing up in Ireland. Each culture has a very important sense of family, which has really influenced my work and the kind of the storytelling that comes from that,” she says.

“The landscape in Hong Kong has also really influenced me and my textiles. It’s the contrast of nature and man-made and that juxtaposition, you know, that’s been a big part of my collections over the years.”

Described by Vogue as “a heady mix of femininity that tows [sic] the line between the coquettish and the melancholy”, Rocha’s designs have catapulted her to icon status in the womenswear segment – thanks also in large part to her staying true to her vision for the brand.

“Honestly, it’s been amazing and it’s actually been very organic,” she says. “It’s always been about creating this world and sharing and developing the label so that it can be open to more people and growing the community around it. Opening stores was a big part of it as well as doing projects and collaborations along the way.”

Rocha (centre) with moderator Divia Harilela and Tracey Cheng from I.T at the Forum

For those hoping to follow in Rocha’s footsteps, the designer emphasises the need to express oneself through their brand. “I think what’s important is to have a really strong identity that is very sincere to you – I feel that’s the most important thing if you want to have your own label. You have to be able to give so much, it genuinely has to be a part of you,” she says. “Then I also think it’s really important to be open to collaboration with your team, with others, with your stores. You have to really be open to the dialogue that’s ahead to really make it a reality.”

Last season Rocha added menswear to her existing line-up of womenswear, jewellery, shoes, bags and other accessories. She has also adapted to the many changes and challenges brought about by technology as well as the pandemic. “For example, during the pandemic, we set up our own e-commerce. It was a big step for us, but it felt right because we had brick and mortar. We could do it in the right way and we could treat it in the right way. No one has pushed me to do anything like, say, AI. I think we all just know that we have to keep moving forward.”

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