Rocha's homage to grandmothers

Simple dresses and princess coats in powder pink neoprene had a stiff ladylike prettiness that was offset by mannish patent brogues. photograph: getty images

Simple dresses and princess coats in powder pink neoprene had a stiff ladylike prettiness that was offset by mannish patent brogues. photograph: getty images

Wed, Feb 20, 2013, 00:00

Simone Rocha and JW Anderson gave visitors plenty to think about

Simone Rocha’s invite was one of the hottest tickets at London Fashion Week.

Her show yesterday at the Tate Tank called “Respect Your Elders” was probably the first that was a tribute to grandmothers, in this case her Irish granny Margaret Gleeson and her Chinese grandmother Cecilia Rocha.

The 26-year-old Irish designer who, along with another Irish talent JW Anderson, won NewGen sponsorship this season, is fast acquiring superstar status, and earlier this month was voted best young designer at the Elle style awards.

In the event this was a breathtaking winter collection with powerful aesthetic and commercial appeal judging from the stampede of buyers and press backstage afterwards.

The opening line-up of simple dresses and princess coats in powder pink neoprene mesh had a stiff, ladylike prettiness, offset by mannish patent brogues and tousled hair.

That stiff, structured look was repeated again in dresses and suits of rigid black lace, cut with refinement and elegance. Fabric was everything and her use of it, from black patent bomber jackets and roomy leopard print coats to the creamy wools and black tinsel tweed dresses with flamboyant hip flounces, was fresh and innovative. Rocha’s spring collection has already sold out in Havana and this collection, with its cross-generational appeal, will no doubt follow suit.

JW Anderson’s collection was more conceptual in approach, but this designer’s commercial success with his Topshop collaborations allows him to be more adventurous with his main line. He called this “Semiology of the Self” and though visually dramatic, its offbeat shapes, angular cuts and odd detailing made for some curious combinations.

Twisted white leather skirts, surgical style gowns and cropped cutaway capes challenged conventional codes and proportions, but along with more monastic-style robes, a dress printed with cartoon strips and a bright red greatcoat showed a cheekier spirit at work.

Finally as London Fashion Week ended, Paul Costelloe made his return at a low-key presentation showing a line-up of tailored suits and coats in pastel colours that he described as “a postcard to say that I’m back”.

MARGARET McDONALD

Managing director of Coast, which launched its latest collection in Dublin yesterday, London-based McDonald has had a long career in fashion. McDonald, who is from Athy in Co Kildare, trained in the College of Marketing in Dublin. She got her first job in the buying office of Penneys later moving to the US to work for Banana Republic and The Limited.

After a spell in San Francisco, she joined Marks Spencer in the UK for four years, but left to launch Banana Republic in Europe. She was chief executive of LK Bennett for two years before moving to Coast in 2010, where she has now installed a new design director, Kim Elliott, and marketing and ecommerce director Jayne O’Keeffe. “There are still a lot of positive opportunities in Ireland – people are still dressing up. We are making the brand more modern with a lot more choice,” she says.

She is married to Irish man Mark Kelly and they have two young daughters.

ANA MacCARRICK

From Holywood in Co Down but with family and friends in Ballina and Belfast, MacCarrick landed a job with the British Fashion Council last year and is now its digital marketing executive on a small team with responsibility for all social media and its seven websites.

She went to school at St Dominic’s on the Falls Road where her mother was a teacher. MacCarrick was always interested in fashion and took part-time jobs in such shops as River Island.

She studied business, economic and social studies in Trinity College Dublin and after graduation, she worked in Ted Baker in Arnotts.

“I am such a believer in working on the shop floor,” she says, “and I got a lot out of that even in terms of social skills”.

In September 2010, she moved to London to do a year’s internship with Browns on South Molton Street before joining the BFC. She lives in Fulham and sees herself based in London indefinitely.