It could be the Audible recording of Mike Nichols: A Life I’m listening to, but looking at the new Rokh collection I was reminded of the director’s highly rewatchable film Working Girl and the commuter suits and sneakers worn by its star Melanie Griffith. By 1988, when the movie came out, second wave feminism had ushered in a new generation of working women like Griffith’s Tess McGill, and climbing the corporate ladder sometimes required comfortable shoes. Three decades later we’re wearing sneakers with just about everything—deconstructed suits and party dresses alike—though that probably says less about patriarchal power structures than it does about how hard we all work these days.
Rok Hwang is adding sneakers to his Rokh repertoire expressly because he’s seen so many of his clients wearing his suits and other dressed-up items that way. They look surprisingly right with an athletic dress built from a sleek tank top bodice and a full skirt that filled up with air like a parachute when the model wearing it jumped for her lookbook picture. Mixing unexpected elements is a recurring motif in Hwang’s work. Here, a biker jersey and a pintucked tulle skirt was the strangest combination, but not so unlikely as to be improbable. As radical as his slashing and cutting can sometimes be, Hwang is grounded in reality, and he has an eye for the way young women are creating outfits out of clothes that formerly didn’t go together.
The biker jersey and the pintucked tulle combo were in service of what he said was his larger goal this season, which came about through the fallout of the pandemic; he wanted to put freedom and movement at the center of his work. It came across in lower-key ways too: via the knee-high split seams on trousers, the little shrugs he constructed out of sporty windbreaker material, and the puff sleeve tops that were completely backless save for the bow holding them on.
Hwang’s other instinct was to add crafty touches to his clothes, like lines from a pulp fiction novel that he hand-stitched onto wispy lingerie tops and dresses. In the immortal words of Tess McGill, “I have a head for business, and a bod for sin, is there anything wrong with that?” Us girls, we’re all just trying it to make it, and after the year we’ve had, we might as well have some fun in the process.