John Rocha SS11 and Guggi New Works 2010: Reviewed (Part One)

LONDON Fashion Week saw Guggi launch his New Works of 2010 collection, on the same day his long-time friend John Rocha showed his SS11 collection in the BFC tent. Sketchbook were there to document, interview and review the work, with backstage access before and after Rocha’s showing and heading to the store to see Guggi’s launch in action.

After the family celebrations were done, a few press people managed to speak to John Rocha, whilst his daughter Simone, entertained the guests. We were last but not least in line to speak to the designer about his inspirations and the build-up to the catwalk show.

Rocha, wearing the most comfortable sandals and holding a glass of celebratory champagne, told me of how nervous he was to show this collection. Jimmy Choo and Roisin Murphy among others were in the front row and he did not want to disappoint in front of his peers.

Rocha’s beautiful and well-executed pieces are what stood out in this collection, with sexy yet elegant looks adorning the runway. Black was the staple, as usual with Rocha’s refined style and his inspirations were taken from Deborah Turbeville’s Past Imperfect. He showed corsetry on black jackets, which I liked a lot and on dresses and gowns in light pink and nude hues.

Rocha told Sketchbook that although he looked relaxed post-show and that the collection was pared-down and simple, he had worked hard on the corsetry that he particularly loved. His easy, laid-back style fused with intricate design and craftsmanship is something he brings forward through his Far-Eastern background. He has spent his whole life in Ireland and so have his family.

Through observation backstage, I notice that the Rocha family is an eclectic mix of Chinese/Portuguese and Irish, whilst the younger generation may look Chinese, they have thick Irish accents. This interweaving of cultures is a skill he learnt to master and bring into his designs early on in his career. He says being mixed makes it easier for him to bring in inspirations from different places, be it silk-embroidered tangzhuang jackets from China, traditional patterned dresses from Portugal or the use of pleating and wool from Ireland.

He tells me that although he guides his daughter, designer Simone Rocha whom he stocks in the basement of his Dover Street store, he has never pushed or forced her to do fashion and definitely does not have a say in what goes in her collections. He wants her to find her own way, technique and identity in fashion and as a designer and is a proud father. (His smile beams as he speaks of his daughter!)


From John Rocha’s show we moved onto the Dover Street store to catch Guggi’s New Works of 2010 launch. We had a pile of invitations and places to be, but this was a our most important destination and we fought tooth and nail to find a cab, to no avail, in the end decided upon running to the event, in 6-inch wedged platforms, through the shortcut that out iPhone map showed us.

Upon arrival, the “doormen” aka PR clan asked who we were in a jokey way and remarked on our quick turnaround (very fast legs!), the BMPR whole team were dressed and ready for the showing. The drinks were flowing the art was up and the interview with Rocha and Guggi was booked (part two).

(Click on this link to see the transformation the store underwent:

Downstairs in the John Rocha store


I looked around the store and noticed that a few changes had been made to the original layout of the artwork. I spotted Guggi, his wife and Rocha deep in conversation, seemed like all had gone to plan.

Amazing use of light, this bowl was moved from its previous place to the ground, so the viewer could see it aerially and appreciate the light compositions inside the bowl.

Guggi’s famous use of the Russian language

Guggi’s work is simple, informal, yet powerful. His emphasis on abstract, yet common objects such as a jar (below) and a bowl (above) are all references taken from his childhood. Guggi continuoiusly recalls and touches upon his childhood in his artwork.

Upon first look, his work creates the sense of a deceptive simplicity and when up close to his work one notices that it has layers, scribbles and markings, which leave the viewer in a state of calm but assuming there is a hidden meaning.

Guggi negates the idea that the Russian characters are used to symbolize something more, the entire passages were chosen at random from Tolstoy’s War and Peace and are simply compositional content.

His fascination with the Russian language and in particular Russian numbers, stem from his childhood, a period where the Soviet Union and the Cold War was always shown on TV; images of these Russian numbers from stamps have resonated with him ever since. Their represent the idea of counting and accountancy, which can be done in any language, but these are of relevance to him. This therefore removes the mystery being a hidden meaning and brings forward the artist’s desire for visual effect.

Guggi was brought up in Ireland among 9 other siblings, he was the second-eldest, born in 1959 in Dublin. He never formally attended art school but was an avid painter and craftsman, he left his band Virgin Prunes to follow his dream and has never looked back since.

Long-time friends and collaborators, Guggi and John Rocha

Check out the Sketchbook blog this week for Part Two of this two-part series, for our in-depth conversation/interview with Guggi and for more from Rocha. Find out how they became friends, why Guggi decided to launch his work with Rocha and how Guggi makes his artwork.


IMAGES and WORDS: Cleide Carina

With Special Thanks to: Guggi, John Rocha, Bryan Morel PR and the management at John Rocha, Dover Street store for their time and access for this piece.