My Secret Life: John Rocha, fashion designer, 58


My parents are... very humble people. I come from a working-class background, and they always had this love for each other and for us.

The household I grew up in... We had a two-bedroom flat with 10 people living in it; my siblings, parents and grandmother, so it was very cramped. We slept on the floor.

When I was a child I wanted to... be a footballer.

If I could change one thing about myself...I would be six inches taller.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... I can speak Cantonese, but I can't speak about fashion – I learnt all my fashion in Europe, so often during interviews in Chinese I just don't know the right word – it can be very hard to explain things.

At night I dream of... During fashion week, I dream about fashion; afterwards, I dream about fishing. After fashion week I always go fishing to wind down. The rest of the time I don't dream much at all.

I wish I'd never worn... platform shoes. It comes back to the height issue – they would give you those extra inches and you'd think you looked good. It was the Seventies. But looking back, I look a bit funny.

What I see when I look in the mirror... a funny-looking man.

My favourite item of clothing... I love my black shirts; I have usually 14 of them at any one time.

It's not fashionable but I like... I still love Birkenstocks. I just think they are the most comfortable things; I even wear them in winter sometimes.

A book that changed me... the Mandela autobiography. Just to read about how he gave up such a large part of his life for a wonderful cause – it makes you very humble.

Movie heaven... I love British movies – one of my favourites is Four Weddings and a Funeral; I must have seen it two dozen times. I also like Room With a View.

My secret crush is... I don't have any – I'm very happy with what's around me.

My greatest regret... I wish that I had spent more time in Hong Kong when my father was still alive.

The person who really makes me laugh... My daughter Simone, because she's so dramatic at everything she does. She's in fashion as well, and the way the second generation do things is just so different – I can't take it too seriously.

My real-life villains... I love football, and I think football hooligans ruin the game. The last time I cried... Two or three years ago when we discovered one of my best friend's dad was an alcoholic – it was a really emotional experience to confront him with that.

My five-year plan... If I can continue to do what I do, I'll be very happy. I'm also working on a hotel project in the south of France, so I hope in five years that will be finished and people will really enjoy it.

What's the point? To leave something behind for people to enjoy.

My life in six words... As good as I can get.

A life in brief

John Rocha, CBE, was born in Hong Kong on 23 August, 1953. He moved to London in the 1970s to study fashion. After making his mark with his Chinatown label in Dublin in the 1980s, Rocha went on to create clothing for both men and women in the Irish high-street store A Wear. In 1993, he was named Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. Rocha has lived in Dublin for over 20 years, working closely with his wife and business partner, Odette. They have two children, Simone and Max

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