If you’ve always wanted to nab a piece of Simone Rocha‘s whimsical house signatures, H&M‘s latest designer collaboration arriving in stores and online on March 11 is for you.
Just like her own collections, Rocha’s designs for H&M are deeply personal—the lineup celebrates her inter-ethnic heritage and is woven with inspiration taken from the traditions and craftsmanship of Hong Kong, as well as masterpieces from art history. Besides historical references to Tudor courtiers, Rocha also dug deep into her archives and reimagined some of her favourite details in new proportions—there are tartan, beading, florals, pinks, reds and bespoke fabrics developed exclusively for the collection.
Ahead of the drop, we chat with Rocha and H&M’s Creative Advisor, Ann-Sofie Johansson, about the creative process and motivations behind the long-awaited collaboration.
Your work is known for its femininity and softness, but there is also often an undercurrent of something darker, heavier—what draws you to this duality?
I would agree that my work is very much about a duality—personally, when I think of our collections I think about a certain beauty, a certain timeless quality, which is complimented by a toughness, a punkish spirit, which is inspired by the realities of every day living. I want my pieces to connect with the way people live. They should feel meaningful and relevant. I wouldn’t say I have ever intended my clothes to be overly romantic—I’ve always enjoyed balancing the more overtly beautiful, flamboyant elements with an edge of some kind. I guess it’s always about thinking about the strength and individuality of the wearer—I never want my clothes to exist in a bubble, I want them to be enjoyed and lived in.
For your own collections, there is often a narrative or character at the heart of each. Was there a story that formed the starting point for this H&M collection?
I would say this collection was really about celebrating the signatures of my label. I brings together themes, or narratives, that are always present in my work; art history, craft, strong femininity, and, of course, elements of my own identity, my Irish heritage, and my Hong Kong heritage. We tried to make it very recognisably Simone Rocha. There’s the palette we adore—creams, pinks, reds. And the bespoke fabrications, which we put so much energy into. And, of course, the accessories and embellishments. It was a really pleasurable experience to look back at the archive, and reflect on how the brand has grown, and how certain classics have developed.
I certainly spent a lot of time looking back at the first neoprene pearly collection we did, which was Spring/Summer 2014—it really felt like a
moment in establishing my identity, and it was when I first introduced the pearl, which is now so signature. I also looked at Spring/Summer 2016, which was partly inspired by the Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and which was my first Fashion Week show in Lancaster House. I also spent time revisiting the Anne Boleyn collection, which was Autumn/Winter 2014, and mixing elements from that, such as the seersucker tartan checked dress, with more recent elements, like the pleated tulles from the Red Dolls collection, which was Spring/Summer 2018. I really wanted to take archive details and reimagine them. So, it’s not mere re-editions, it’s taking things and reinterpreting them for today and now.
What was it like designing menswear for the first time? How do you see the Simone Rocha man in relation to the Simone Rocha woman?
I was so thrilled that The Simone Rocha x H&M collection allowed me to expand into areas that I’ve long been fascinated by, such as menswear and childrenswear. It is the first time I have offered a collection for the whole family. Every piece in the collection—his and hers, adult and small—is designed to be in conversation with each other; one unit, one identity.
It’s not so much that the menswear is about masculinity, or that the womenswear is highly feminine; it’s really about a mix, a sense of different pieces in dialogue, a cross-over between genders. So, there are tulle dresses alongside tulle suiting, a trench for him and one for her, shirting for both. It’s very much a shared sensibility, and I love the idea of people mixing and matching and wearing everything in their own way.
You are also known for your use of exquisite materials and details, but for this collection you are also working within the parameters of H&M’s accessible pricing—what was it like reconciling the two and what did you take away from that experience?
As you say, fabrics and craft are a huge part of my own label, so I wanted to make sure that the fabrications and details in this Simone Rocha x H&M collection still had that personal touch and identity. We put the same care and attention into the fabrics in this collection as we would for any for our mainline Simone Rocha collections. We developed versions of our signature tulles, lots of lovely knits and wools. We have become known for our attention to detail, our embellishments and decorations, so I was very keen to include some really special dresses and ‘occasions’ pieces within this collection; things that really make the wearer feel special. I think that the more you look at some of the pieces within the collection, the more the little details come through and it’s wonderful to offer this to such a broad audience.
Related article: The H&M Kidswear and Harry Potter Collection Is Pure Magic
What do you look for in a collaborator and what drew you to Simone Rocha for this one?
Simone Rocha has been on H&M’s wish-list for a long time. We have been following her work for a number of years and have been so impressed with how clear her perspective is. These collaborations obviously have a long history. It all started with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004. We wanted to try a new idea of collaborating with a well-known designer; giving our customers the possibility to purchase something from a high-end designer at an H&M price and for Karl to reach out to many more customers and fans that he did with his own collections, as well as new shoppers, who may never have been able to buy a piece before. That collaboration was such a great success with our customers so we decided to continue with them. Over the years we have collaborated with Stella McCartney, Marni, Versace, Balmain, just to mention a few.
I think what really impressed us was how Simone has such a unique and special aesthetic, season on season; she has such a clear point of view. And that felt very exciting for this moment; a female designer with such a clear sense of who she is, and what she wants to say. She offers a really dynamic reflection on modern femininity, which is fascinating to see. And, of course we are so excited that this collection marks the first time we have worked with an Irish designer. Plus, this collection marks her menswear and childrenswear debut, which we are honoured to be the home of.
What is about Simone’s vision of femininity & fashion that feels right for this moment?
I personally have been very inspired to work with a female designer who spends so much time thinking about contemporary femininity, and womanhood, and who has such a dynamic female team working around her. It’s wonderful to have a woman’s view on design today—to have that female gaze. It’s always about beauty, but there is an edge too; a focus on the realities of how we live our lives, and the sense that people don’t want to be constrained by their clothing. All of Simone’s pieces are extremely special. And I think that’s what really attracted us to her.
I feel that Simone is a great designer for this moment—recently we have, more than ever, been confronted with the importance of fashion in bringing people joy. It can offer a wonderful chance for escapism; the chance to feel transformed, or newly confident. Simone is a designer who always nods to that ‘fantastical’ side of fashion—the dreaming—but in a way that feels very down-to-earth, very aware of the realities of people’s lives, so I think she is the perfect designer to offer this collection in this moment. I hope it will offer escapism, but in a way that feels honest, and relevant, and tender.
What are your favourite pieces from this collection and why?
Well, we are of course so excited to be able to be the firsts to debut Simone’s take on menswear and childrenswear. And some of the kidswear are just so adorable—there are certainly some key pieces there, with the miniature versions of some of her iconic dresses. In terms of pieces to wear myself, I love the black brogues with pearl embellishments. Brogues were one of the first cult accessories that Simone created when she was building her label, so the version within this collection really feels like a nod to special moment in fashion history—which is what these H&M collaborative collections are all about; a piece of design history, available to all.
H&M was a pioneer in making designer collections accessible—a strategy now adopted industry-wide. How does an H&M-designer collaboration stand out in this saturated market?
I think our collaborations stand out because of the unique ethos; it is about celebrating great design, and great moments of fashion history that should be treasured and remembered. So, while we always approach designers that we admire, we also only team up with those who respect and share the same values as H&M. The goal has always been about creating the best collection together with the designer for old and new customers—with that ethos and lots of teamwork, the collaborations are at their best and this is what collaborations are all about.
What was so nice about working with Simone as our latest designer is that she has always been such a fan of the concept, from the start she told me about the elation she felt at the time about being able to own a part of fashion history. She still has socks from the Marni x H&M collection, and a Comme spotty knit. I think for her, to be able to offer a piece of design history for a new generation is thrilling. This collection really distills the ethos of what Simone’s label is about; and that’s incredibly exciting both for her, as a designer, to reflect on 10 years in business, and for shoppers.
Scroll through to see all the pieces (and prices) from the collection:
In view of safe shopping and social distancing in store, there will be no physical queue; shoppers can join the digital queue online from Mar 8. Check out H&M Singapore Facebook for more details.
BAZAAR x H&M