John Rocha – Irish-based fashion designer
View John Rocha Fashion collections on London Fashion Review Blog
John Rocha – Fashion Designer
History of the John Rocha Brand
Born in Hong Kong and of Chinese and Portuguese descent, John Rocha moved to London in the 1970’s to study fashion at London’s Croydon School of Art. After his graduate show, which heavily featured Irish linen, the Irish Trade Board invited John to go to Ireland. John Rocha married fellow student, Eily Doolan, and set up home in Kilkenny.
In the early 1980’s, the couple went into business with Paddy McKillen, a Northern Irish businessman who was building a fortune on the back of his DC Exhaust business. As Rocha’s fashion business took off, he started selling his designs in department stores such as Brown Thomas in Dublin and Bloomingdales in New York.
In 1983, Rocha’s marriage broke down and with it the business venture collapsed. In 1984, Rocha set up another business, Chinatown, with backing from the family of his partner, Odette Gleeson. The couple eventually married and as of 2011, still work together. Chinatown had a clothing factory in Dublin’s Liberties, where Rocha’s daughter Simone studied fashion at the National College of Art and Design. Unfortunately this business too collapsed with heavy financial debts in 1988. Rocha consequently worked in London for a few years before returning to Ireland.
In the 1990’s John Rocha agrees a deal with A-Wear to do high-street versions of his clothing. Unfortunately, this venture too failed, but the split between Rocha and A-Wear is still a mystery. Rocha received further backing from his partner’s family and set up a design house in a Temple Bar (Dublin) warehouse and the licensing deals soon started to come in.
At the start of the new millennium Rocha decided to try his hand at interior design and soon secured an appointment to work on the interior design of a new hotel opening in Dublin. Things finally seemed positive for Rocha, until, in 2000, the architect behind the Morrison Hotel in Dublin, the issued a solicitor’s statement suggesting that Rocha had overstated his role in the design of the project. “We were the designers,” Douglas Wallace insisted. “We have the drawings for anyone to see. It was like an orchestra. He was a fundamental element in it, but he did not design it.” However, this didn’t affect Rocha’s success and marketability as an interior designer, being involved in many more architectural projects.
In 2000, John Rocha launched his diffusion line, Rocha by John Rocha, as part of the Designers at Debenhams initiative. As well as the diffusion line, as of 2011, John Rocha has a line for Waterford Crystal, a home wear line and a jewellery range.
John Rocha is known for his sheer evening wear, his use of rich fabrics with hand painted (often oriental inspired) and crocheted knitwear. As of 2011, the John Rocha collections can be seen in the London standalone concept store. The brand’s wares are also stocked in some of the world’s finest boutiques including China’s Copais, Italy’s Luisa Via Roma and Ireland’s Havana.
John Rocha: A Timeline Snapshot
- 1970’s: John Rocha moves to London to study fashion at the Croydon School of Art.
- 1980’s: Inspired by the Irish linen Rocha used for his graduate collection, he visited Ireland and eventually moved to Dublin. In the early 1980’s, he enters business with Paddy McKillen. Rocha’s designs are sold in department stores in Dublin and New York.
- 1994: John Rocha receives the prestigious British Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Awards.
- 1997: The John Rocha brand launches a collaboration with Waterford Crystal, which continues to expand and develop before Waterford Crystal’s closure in 2008.
- 1999: The Morrison Hotel opens as John Rocha’s first successful involvement in an interior design and architectural project. Further projects followed in Dublin, Liverpool, Birmingham and Budapest
- 2000: The brand launches its diffusion line, Rocha by John Rocha, as part of the Designers at Debenhams initiative.
- 2002: This year saw the launch of the organically inspired John Rocha jewellery line and the release of Rocha’s first book, JOHN ROCHA Texture, Form, Purity, Detail, which chronicled his progression in the fashion industry. Also this year, Rocha receives a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from Her Majesty The Queen, for services to fashion.
- 2007: The John Rocha menswear collection is launched. Also this year, a standalone John Rocha concept store opens on London’s Dover Street, which showcases the brands designer collections as well as Rocha’s eclectic mix of interests – including art, sculpture and books offering a unique retail experience.
- 2010: The Waterford Crystal brand is re-launched, seeing a return of the John Rocha Waterford Crystal range.
Rocha by John Rocha: The Diffusion Line
Autumn/Winter 2000 saw the launch of Rocha.John Rocha, with the initial collections ranging over five departments for Debenhams. These consisted of Menswear, Womenswear, Childrenswear, Accessories and Homes. The Rocha John Rocha collections have gone from strength to strength,continuing to develop and grow through the seasons.
As of 2011, 11 years since its launch, Rocha by John Rocha remains at the core of ‘Designers at Debenhams’ concept, which also features collections from, among others, Henry Holland, Betty Jackson, Jasper Conran and Julien Macdonald. The Designers at Debenhams concept is heavily attributed to its 20% rise in profits for the 2010 financial year, despite the tough economic conditions experienced by many other retailers across this period.
Visit the Official John Rocha Website here