Girl Power

Simone Rocha on Her J Brand Collaboration

Everyone owns a pair of jeans. They’re a given: a part of today’s style vernacular so present they largely fly under the radar. Yet among endless variations, few ever look truly new. How do you transform something so ubiquitous?

Leave it to an iconoclast like Simone Rocha, who rarely even wears jeans. For Spring 15, she teams up with J Brand on a collection of denim refashioned to reflect her subversive brand of femininity. “I thought it was a great opportunity to combine my aesthetic with their expertise in denim and fit,” says the London-based designer. When they approached her, she jumped at the chance to bring her work into a new context. “I had never worked in denim before, so I was very interested in the idea of seeing my design style reimagined in a new cloth.”

That aesthetic results from an intriguing balancing act: “a modern form of romance that comes from the tension of masculine and feminine details, hand-crafted materials with plastics, naivety and strength.” That might mean anything from a transparent plastic biker jacket embroidered in daisies to ruffled bouffant skirts and tartan trousers, or her signature Perspex-heeled brogues. A lover of grandma dresses and Downton Abbey, Rocha also favors historical influences. But her clothes look relentlessly contemporary. “I think the balance of these contrasts is what keeps the collections feeling modern,” she says. “I never want anything to go too far one way or another – too lady, too historical, too sexy.”

Which brings us to the denim. In a palette of pink, red, and black designed to appeal to “an army of ladies,” oversized ruffles adorn back and hip pockets, the shoulders of denim vests and jackets, and the hems of skirts. They feel like hybrids of jeans and party dresses, with a mischievous sense of playfulness. It makes sense: teenage tomboys were Rocha’s chief inspiration. But her sculptural ruffles also pick up where her Fall 14 collection left off. Crop tops, ball skirts, and oversized jackets in pearl-embellished black velvet and red tartan translated the pannier hips and exaggerated shoulders of Elizabethan period gowns into regal, oversized ruffles.

Seen on Rocha and J Brand’s rethought denim, these same ruffles read as a tribute to all the women who inspire the designer, past and present. “Being a woman is empowering, and very much what you make of it,” says Rocha. “I think it’s about being in touch with your own form of femininity.” By taking on jeans, she’s rethought a crucial component of the modern girl’s wardrobe, and put her subversive spin on the present. When we ask what qualities she admires most in a woman, they couldn’t be a better fit: “strength, creativity, and a sense of humor.”