Buy photography books with Simone Rocha
On a chilly afternoon in the middle of New York Fashion Week, Irish designer Simone Rocha scours SoHo and Chelsea for vintage photo books. Her schedule this week is particularly busy: she throws a party to celebrate the opening of her first store in the United States before returning to London to reunite with her partner, Eoin McLoughlin, and her one-year-old daughter, Valentine, and put the finishing touches on her Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, which will premiere during London Fashion Week on Saturday. Still, she has set aside time to roam the city in search of new inspiration.
The designer has always insisted on buying books when she travels. (She estimates she owns nearly 1,000 photography books between her London home and her studio.) “You never feel alone in a bookshop,” she laughs. Strolling down Bond Street in a voluminous black dress of her own design, she descends the stairs to Dashwood Books. “I like to find books that I don’t know,” she says. “Most of the time I go to a bookstore and buy something, maybe in the sales bin, and then when I get home I find out so much more about it. It’s very instinctive. »
Rocha’s new store on Wooster Street is full of Louise Bourgeois artwork and plexiglass – and mirrors the aesthetic of her intricate lace dresses and Lucite heels. To celebrate the new boutique, she has also created her own photo book with images of her personal friends and inspirations Perry Ogden, Roni Horn and more, which customers can take away for free. (She created a similar book for the opening of her Mount Street store in London.)
At Dashwood Books, she finds two titles she already owns and loves: one, a Japanese book with images of everyday things like flowers or eggs sitting elegantly on a spoon – and another, ” Zzyzx” by Gregory Halpern, a sort of ode to California. And near the cash register, she spots a book she must have: “Houseplants Covered with Snow” by Ruth van Beek. “It’s really adorable,” she said, placing it near the cash register. She glances at another book she says she’s been reading for a while: “Maximilian Stejskal: Folklig idrott,” an eccentric book on folk gymnastics by a Finnish ethnologist and gymnastics teacher. “I’ve been thinking about this book for ages,” she said, inspecting the spine and cover. “And I just think it’s fair that I buy it.” As she leaves, the cashier tells her that she has great taste.
Rocha has fashion in her blood – her father John Rocha was also a designer – but photography and art have always inspired her. She has a close relationship with Louise Bourgeois’ Easton Foundation and knows Perry Ogden personally, which has allowed her to include their works in her shops and in her book.
At Printed Matter in West Chelsea, Rocha heads to the back, where photo books are neatly organized on a table and behind a display case. “It’s my favorite,” she says of the bookstore. The designer rummages through a stack of freestanding photobooks under store signs that read, “I’ve read more books than Trump.” She covered “Araki Teller, Teller Araki” by Juergen Teller and Nobuyoshi Araki: “I love Araki. He’s probably the photographer whose books I have the most. Rocha often looks at photographs when designing her creations. “From Jackie Nickerson’s photos – all the textures, grass and corn in the tobacco fields – I ended up doing textures that were rope,” she says, referring to the pieces of her spring/summer 2017 collection. “It definitely crosses over.”
When she arrives at the Strand, Rocha takes the elevator to the third floor and immediately heads to the back, where there are extremely rare books, some behind glass. She pulls a Roni Horn title from a shelf and, seeing the price, says, “It’s almost £1,000.” She moves on to the first book she’s ever received from McLoughlin: From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America. “He was a photographer I had never heard of, and that’s how he wooed me,” she said, pulling him from the shelf.
She picks up the Japanese book ‘Farewell Photography’, by Daido Moriyama, and dwells on the blurry and experimental black and white images, before grabbing the softcover book ‘On Seeing’, which contained black and white photos. small children. wearing beautiful homemade clothes. “Looks like it could be one of my pieces,” she said, pointing to the cover. Of the two copies, Rocha chooses to buy the rougher one, at a slightly lower price. “Fashion, what I do, is not real life. I create a story,” she says. “But I’m very influenced by the real world, those emotions it gives you and how I can translate that into clothes. That’s why I’m so interested in photo books.