John Rocha relaunches Croydon School of Art


These were the words expressed in an inspirational address by John Rocha, former student and internationally celebrated fashion designer, when he came to Croydon College to mark the relaunch of the formerly renowned Croydon School of Art on Friday 11 October.

John attended the College in 1974 and his time and training at the College marked the start of what has been, and still is, a fabulous career in fashion and design. John shared his enthusiasm and pleasure at marking the relaunch of the School, reminiscing about other famous alumni and how the School had changed lives and offered a world of opportunity.

A private viewing of the Parfitt Gallery where a selection of student and staff work from a number of famous alumni and the College’s impressive archive is currently exhibited, was followed by a tour of the newly configured accommodation and facilities of Croydon School of Art. This was also a chance for students and staff to meet with John and his wife, Odette.

Level 3 Art and Design student, Folajimi Adeyinka, 18, of Crystal Palace, explained that: “Meeting John Rocha was incredible. He asked questions about what I was working on and explained that with hard work and dedication my future was in my hands. I really enjoyed talking to him and his wife.”

Shortly before an impressive fashion show, John gave a short speech to the 150 strong audience: “Dreams are important. Without dreams there would have been no Nelson Mandela or Alexander McQueen. For me, Croydon School of Art and the College allowed my dreams to come true. Relaunching the Croydon School of Art is exciting. It will allow the dreams of others to also come true.”

This was followed by a fabulous display of over 120 garments designed by current and past students, modelled by professional models and students. Sponsorship and support for the show came from a variety of creative sources and leading edge companies including Illamasqua, who provided the makeup which was applied by leading make-up artist Lara Himpelmann.

John and his wife Odette met the models and designers and were both full of praise for the show and the quality of the work. “The quality is outstanding and the designs innovative and creative,” said John after inspecting some garments.

John Rocha presented an Enterprise in Fashion Award to student Angela Obeng for her continuous distinction level work and achievement within placements. Angela, who is now studying a degree in Fashion at Nottingham Trent University, was ecstatic to receive the award.

She explained: “It was great to see John Rocha and be awarded the Enterprise in Fashion Award by him; I was so surprised and completely honoured to receive it. John spoke to me about how he started here in the same position as me at Croydon School of Art many years ago; it was so inspirational to hear. This whole experience has given me more motivation to work hard and achieve exactly what he has.”

Tim Strange, Head of Croydon School of Art, said: “This is an exciting day for me, staff, students and the College. We’re reigniting the creative energy of the School of Art and are determined to reclaim the status of being considered one of the top art schools in the country. I am really grateful to John and Odette for sharing this milestone with us and for their promise of future support for our creative work.”

The show came to a close with a standing ovation from the audience. Invited guests, students and staff were then invited to stay in the newly refurbished contemporary gallery and enjoy the creative work that was on show.

Frances Wadsworth, Principal and Chief Executive of Croydon College, said: ”This event was a remarkable milestone for Croydon College, Croydon School of Art and Croydon’s creative community who have all been overwhelmingly supportive.  We are very grateful for John and Odette’s support for the relaunch and John’s inspiring example and words. The combination of further and higher education courses means the School offers fantastic opportunities for ambitious creative students.”

If you are a former student or member of staff of Croydon School of Art and would like to find out more information, please contact [email protected].