There comes a point in every fashion editor’s life when she must decide if she’s seeing the future walk by, or if she’s just jet-lagged.

It happened for me in 2010, when I crammed behind my then-boss on a plywood bench in London. A young designer named Simone Rocha was showing new clothes, and according to some models who’d shared their cigarettes along with their opinions the night before, those clothes might actually be very good. The lights dimmed and the girls came through: Cara Delevingne in a slashed oxford shirt dress with a Perspex crucifix instead of a purse, a traditional Scottish kilt made entirely in see-through white tulle, some Saville Row suit vests redone in baby-pink poplin. The models had giant roses sprouting from their heads, their eyelashes rimmed in neon pink powder. It looked like they’d been crying tears of Pixy Stix powder backstage.

“What the hell was that?” snapped my seatmate after the show, nearly whacking me with her Mulberry Alexa bag as she strode to our car. “I think that was it.” I stammered through my sleepiness. “I don’t totally get it yet, but…yes.”

At couture week, Jean Paul Gaultier is also saying “yes” to Simone Rocha. The Irish-born artist, now 37, is Gaultier’s latest collaborator, and she’s merging the iconic French house’s design codes with her own in Rocha’s first-ever Paris couture collection. “My intention was to create a collection that was very feminine, but also provocative, playful, sensual, and really look at things that are very historically Gaultier, or at least the last 10 to 20 years, and then see, how would they feel today?”

Rocha’s first interaction with Jean Paul Gaultier came in adolescence, when she encountered the brand’s signature Classique fragrance, with a powder-pink bottle shaped like a corseted body. “It impacted me so much,” she says. “It’s one of my very first memories of a designer brand, and the fact that the bottle is very sensual, and the fact that fragrance goes on the skin, but then it’s in this hard aluminum case….It felt like armour, and the corsetry is a different kind of armour.” Rocha’s own protective shell gear—the famous Micro Pearl Egg Bag—has a similar play on hard and soft. “That kind of idea still feels very true to me, and very true to what I recognized as a teenager,” she says.

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Today, Rocha’s own silhouettes are nearly as recognizable as a Gaultier cone bra, thanks to her popular bows and bell skirts. Chloë Sevigny and Billie Eilish are fans; so are trend-setting retailers like Dover Street Market and Ssense. A collaboration with H&M in 2021 included sweatshirts hemmed with so much tulle, you could reuse them for Sugarplum cosplay. (Like everything else in the line, they sold out in seconds.) We talk a lot, and with some anxiety, about the cost of holding the door open for girlhood whimsy to break curfew with adult artistry. But girlhood leaves as forceful a mark on the world as any political or business titan, and Rocha’s continued faith in its power is what her shoppers adore—and so do the millions of TikTok teens filtering their own faces through Rocha’s bizarro bow filters, created by fashion fans to put a ribbon on…well, literally everything.

I ask Rocha how she feels about the internet’s newish coquette vibes, especially since she basically created them on the runways. “I really just take it as a compliment!” she says, rather humbly. “It’s actually pretty incredible. For me, the bows have always been about this idea of femininity and strength. They’re subverting the idea of girliness, and I think that’s innate in so many different women and girls. Now, the bows have taken on a life of their own through them, and that’s exactly the point.”

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Bows do feature prominently in Rocha’s shared jpegs of JPG, including a pretty brilliant display of the brand’s classic marinière shirt, remade in delicate navy ribbons instead of striped cotton. Satin pink sailor hats have bows, too, and feature Rocha’s other signatures—including metal-dipped roses and resin-coated antique lace. “We also have this amazing hand-painted organza, which has been woven in a gold and silver metallic thread. So it’s this iridescent fabrication that holds the body for tailoring…some of the methods we’ve been using are very historical and traditional to Parisian couture. And some are very, very new and dependent on technology. And I love the contrast between the two.”

Rocha shares that she’s been playing coquette saints like Lana del Rey and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla soundtrack in the atelier, but also insists that it’s just a playlist, and not an inspiration list. “When I began this collection, it wasn’t really with an ‘inspiration.’ It was very much more of an intention,” she explains. “I really felt like the intention of the garments on the body, and the garments themselves, are more important than a mood board. It’s more of an emotive feeling—how each look makes you feel and behave. On the runway, each look is a character, and has its own identity.”

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I wonder how Rocha balances her fierce, independent vision with the reality that fashion collaborations include a lot of eyes—and also a lot of opinions from front row guests and internet chats alike. “We make things we believe in, and if people are missing those ideas, I actually kind of respect that,” she says, laughing. “I’ve never felt like everything has to be for everybody. If you have an idea you think is beautiful, then you have to make it happen for yourself. Say yes to yourself first, without counting yourself out, and then see what happens.”

In this case, what happens is couture—with bows on.

Off-White Micro Pearl Egg Bag, Simone Rocha. Price: $885