John Rocha

Elizabeth Glendinning

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA245

Born in Hong Kong in 1953 to Chinese and Portuguese parents, Dublin-based designer John Rocha studied fashion at Croydon School of Art, London, where the Irish textiles used in his graduate collection inspired him to move to Ireland in the early 1980s. After a brief marriage to a fellow student, he met his second wife and business partner Odette Gleeson, with whom he launched the label Chinatown in 1984. The label was in existence until 1988, when the business collapsed from financial pressures. Rocha continued to design, recognized for his sumptuous juxtapositioning of fabrics and layers and his sheer evening wear. In 1993 was awarded the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year award.

Rocha enjoys exploring the relationships of different materials, explaining in his 2002 book: “I like the way they contradict and complement each other and create the surprises of unexpected texture.” With this is mind, it is understandable that he has implemented his talents in alternative projects and avenues of design. In 1997 he launched John Rocha at Waterford Crystal, designing a range of glassware for the home. The company closed in 1998 but was relaunched in 2010. His interior design projects include the interior concept for the Morrison Hotel, Dublin, in 2000. This was the same year that he launched Rocha by John Rocha, a diffusion line for Debenhams department store as part of the Designers at Debenhams range, which has since gained designers such as Stephen Jones, Julien Macdonald, and Matthew Williamson.

In 2002 Rocha was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen for his contribution to the fashion industry. His book John Rocha: Texture, Form, Purity, Detail was released in the same year, chronicling his career in design up to this point. In 2007 Rocha launched his first collection of menswear.

Rocha’s London showroom is in Dover Street and in the early twenty-first century he continues to show twice yearly at London Fashion Week, his concerns loyal to the clarity of form, the structuring of a garment, and simplicity of design, which he maintains throughout his design work: “I want to make beautiful things. I want to make people feel good—feel special in the clothes I make, the spaces I create and the objects I design.” Rocha and his wife Odette live and work in Dublin, where the company’s headquarters are based at Ely Place. They have two children, Max and Simone. Simone is also a fashion designer and shows at London Fashion Week.

John Rocha, Spring/Summer 1986. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Cléir Síle de. “Ireland.” In the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion , Volume 8, West Europe . Berg Fashion Library, 2010. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/BEWDF/EDch8052

Find in Library Cléir Síle de. ““Creativity in the Margins: Identity and Locality in Ireland’s Fashion Journey”.” Fashion Theory 15, no. 2 (2011): 201–224 .

John Rocha. Web site. www.johnrocha.ie .

Find in Library Rocha John. John Rocha: Texture, Form, Purity, Detail . London : Conran Octopus Group, 2002.