St Patrick's Dayby 149
Nicola Donovan on John Rocha; his designs and love of Ireland. Ubiquitous yet seemingly modest, successful but not brittle, fashion without the flash, a major player in the world of design who smiles and is gracious: John Rocha is something of an enigma, a contemporary puzzle of a man with an international background and a feel for the simple but important pleasures in life. Born in Hong Kong and half Chinese, half Portuguese, Rocha began his life with a rich mix of cultural influence and has continued to refine, combine and distill his experience through design. A resident of the Irish Republic for over 20 years, Rocha is a home fixture. A few years ago he turned his hand to interior design, with his first project being the luxurious Morrison Hotel in Dublin. Rocha, a champion of Irish crafts and creativity has been enveloped and proudly claimed by the Irish as their own, and quite rightly so. He has done much to highlight Ireland as a country that produces innovative and excellent creative brains as well as beautiful crafts and textiles. In 1999 Rocha joined Jasper Conran as part of the Designers at Debenhams collective and launched his diffusion line. His success has continued and within the Rocha.John Rochacollection, his designs for menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, homes and accessories, have become available to a broader public. Like his designs for domestic space, Rocha's clothing has a complex simplicity, a contradiction perhaps, even an oxymoron, but this is how harmony sometimes works - a mix of research, observation, a sophisticated understanding of form and colour, the ability to observe and assimilate. Rocha delivers objects, clothes, buildings that people enjoy because they are harmonic; they meet aesthetic standards but also consider comfort and usability. Rocha's design harbours an intrinsic intelligence: the journey and interpretation of a torn lace slip into the grammar of a new collection which exhibits a sensitivity to the heritage of craft, a deeper understanding uncommon in much contemporary fashion. Perhaps living in Ireland helps to keep Rocha grounded. Although the cities have been transformed by the now departed Celtic Tiger, Ireland is a literate country. Its people have a love of language and this love is nurtured by a capacity to take the time to think. Maybe this is why Rocha is at home in Ireland. His work is thoughtful. It simmers together a blend of influences and references until the mix reduces to perfection. An extract from The Literary Issue written by Nicola Donovan.
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