At Milan Fashion Week in 2018, luxury skiwear brand Moncler launched Moncler Genius, an innovative and thoroughly modern business model that sees different designers helm the label to create their own individual collections. Released not seasonally but on a rolling calendar schedule, think of it as fashion's coolest carousel of talent: everyone from HRH favourite Richard Quinn to Valentino's Pierpaolo Piccioli has presented an inspired collection through the initiative. Simone Rocha, one of London Fashion Week's most revered creative director, has been there from the start.
Launching her fourth collection for the brand today, this time under the theme 'Exploring New Territories', Rocha used the most romantic of materials, tulle, to create outerwear embroidered with blooming pansies, daisies and roses. While her signature frothy frills maintain an ethereal touch, there's always a darkness to Rocha's work – a defiant, almost warlike femininity. This collection is no different. "There is always a contrast to ensure a balance, so the delicate details and fabrications are contrasted with a sense of darkness and toughness to create a modern form of femininity," Rocha tells Refinery29 ahead of the launch. "Each collection has combined the Simone Rocha aesthetic elements in new ways as I explored Moncler's classic Down fabric in different weights and different techniques of manipulation."
To emphasise the dreamlike quality of the collection, Rocha collaborated with photographer Petra Collins on a film examining the notions of drama and fantasy through the female gaze. Rocha is known for casting an array of models for her shows and campaigns – think women over 60 and the likes of Chloë Sevigny. "I want to represent both the diversity of my customer base but also the diversity of femininity," she explains. For the Moncler campaign, she chose professional dancers alongside an exciting mix of familiar faces. "The dancers were able to move in the collection in a dynamic way to explore the new ideas and this is reflected in the still images shot by Andrew Nuding which were done on the set of the film."
In tandem with the dynamism of dance – Rocha cites the work of choreographers Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker as ongoing inspiration – she looked to the films of cult Italian director Federico Fellini. "I was inspired by movement and dance, femininity and the fantasy of dress, and Fellini and how I could challenge those thoughts and balance them with Moncler's codes," she explains. For every whimsical tulle and tutu style, there is a utilitarian severity in ruched hoods, trench coats and zippers. Was she watching Fellini's films while making the collection? "I usually play music while I am working with my team," she says, "it’s a mix of Billie Holiday, Radiohead, Babeheaven and Nina Simone."
Rocha is currently working on her SS21 collection in lockdown, and while it's uncertain exactly how we'll be seeing it now that London Fashion Week has gone digital, the designer's latest Moncler drop is sustaining us in the meantime with all the haunting beauty we've come to know and love her for.