All change with Rocha


LET no one propose that Irish fashion is a static industry. One designer who seems to be constantly moving in fresh directions is John Rocha. Next Wednesday afternoon, for example, sees his return to London Fashion Week after three seasons of showing in Paris. Having won the British Designer of the Year award in 1993, Rocha decided it was time to move to the French capital but now he has concluded that London is his natural home after all. There's no doubt that this change of heart will please the designer's many English supporters, British Fashion Week chairman Clinton Silver is on record saying what a boost the support of Rocha is for his organisation.

The big problem for Irish fans of the designer is that, although he lives and works in this country, his clothes haven't been available to the general public for the past year. The welcome news is that this scenario will change shortly as work starts on a John Rocha store in the centre of Dublin. The exact address can't be released just yet; suffice to say the space will be in the vicinity of Grafton Street, cover approximately 3,500 square feet over three floors and accommodate the whole range of Rocha merchandise for both men and women. That means his main John Rocha label, plus Chinatown and a new casual line taking in jeans. "It'll be like a complete concept shop," he explains. "Basically, I feel now that what I need is somewhere I can put all the collections together in their entirety. We'll start here at home and then maybe go on to open more shops like this abroad.

"Obviously a lot of people in Ireland have missed what we're doing. I've always loved selling my clothes here but I need to do so in a place where I feel comfortable." Building work will start within the next couple of months and the intention is to aim for an August opening - just in time to receive the collection shown in Paris last week. "It's important to have a showcase in Dublin" Rocha accepts, "because so many people from overseas - buyers and press - come here to see us and we've had nowhere for them to see the clothes on sale."

But it's not just clothing that's been occupying the designer of late. Later this year Rocha will be designing a line of glassware for Waterford Crystal. More than just a handful of Items, it's going to be a big collection, covering everything from champagne flutes to water jugs and flower vases. "What I liked was the serious global research Waterford did on this first," says Rocha. "It's a great opportunity for me to work with a company like Waterford which is a tremendous corporation; there was enormous enthusiasm for the project not just among the management but all the workers too."

Given Waterford's association with Wedgwood it's not too surprising that there's now also talk of a ceramic line as well. Could this mean that we may yet see Rocha follow other fashion designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren into the home furnishings market? "It's a kind of logical progression," he admits. "But I'm not rushing anything. People have been onto me about a lot of areas from linens to home accessories but it's a question of finding the right partner."

One partnership that seems to have been right for Rocha was his work as costume designer on director Mary McGuckian's second film This is the Sea which was shot here last summer. Due to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival this May, the film which features John Lynch and singer Brian Kennedy, is expected to have its Irish premiere in the autumn.

Before then, there's a chance to see Rocha on the small screen as his work is shown on BBC television's The Clothes Show. The programme's biennial Bride of the Year special features Belfast couple Heather McCurry and Paul Rice, both dressed by John Rocha for their marriage. Just further proof that the designer has now achieved equal popularity among men and women alike.