"I want to make an old-fashioned woman contemporary," John Rocha declared today, "because I'm an old-fashioned man." With that statement, he anticipated and defused any criticism anyone might choose to level at him about a collection whose strange out-of-time mood is clearly one of this designer's signatures. His invitation listed several dozen people and things he loves, from Hank Williams and David Bowie to his son Max (who did the presentation's music) and Wicklow, the town in Ireland that Rocha said helped inspire the collection. The models' tulle headpieces were based on the wild horses of Wicklow, and the local gypsy population made its presence felt in the wayward flair of crocheted dresses. Part of Rocha's commitment to the contemporary was the fact that the crochet was cashmere, rather than the customary cotton, which added a luxe modern twist.

He also claimed proportion and fit were updated in slimmer silhouettes, but the suspicion lingers that the Rocha woman is perfectly happy with the Edwardian volumes of his big A-line coats and jackets and his full-skirted or bell shapes. The heaviness of flared dresses and skirts, densely clotted with appliquéd blossoms or loops and petals of felt, may border on the inelegant, but one imagines some clients would be convinced by their air of studied, old-fashioned craft. Rocha was on safer, more interesting ground with a handful of pieces in glazed black lace, where old and new meshed seamlessly.