I'm pretty sure that when H&M signed on the dotted line to confirm its upcoming collaboration with designer Simone Rocha, the brand did not expect to be launching into a world that had been in the grips of a global pandemic for 12 months. I would also hazard a guess that the creative teams didn't factor in that their frothy tulle gowns and richly embroidered fabrics would be released to a tracksuit-clad consumer base who now consider listening to Heart Radio's Club Classics on their sofa with a G&T to be a big night out (just me?). But here we are.
From Margiela and Alber Elbaz to Comme des Garçons, H&M's designer collaborations have long been considered a hot commodity amongst the fashion crowd, yet against the backdrop of a struggling high street and brand closures, innovation and originality on the affordable end of the market have never been more important. With consumers increasingly moving online to buy clothes, it's all too easy for fashion brands, particularly on the high street, to get caught up in an algorithm-driven race to create the most broadly appealing commercial item that speaks of what has gone before rather than what lies ahead.
Rocha was probably not the most obvious choice for mass appeal, yet her collection points to the optimism and creativity of a new wave of Brit design talent, one that truly owns its own perspective and seeks to speak to new audiences. After seeing and trying on the collection in real life, I can confirm that H&M has allowed Rocha to remain true to her aesthetic rather than cutting corners or toning down the richly layered references that run through the designer's runway collections.
"It truly is a celebration of the signatures of my brand and the influences that have shaped me," explains Rocha. "I hope that the items in this collection will be worn and treasured for years to come. They were all informed by ideas and inspirations that have shaped me and my brand over the last 10 years, and I am so excited to see them worn out and about and interpreted and styled in new ways."
But down to the important stuff. What did I think of the collection? The first thing that struck me was the quality of the pieces I was pulling out of the delivery box—a heavyweight cream cable-knit jumper, a puffed dress skirt that did not scrimp on the tulle, intricate floral cloqué fabrics that looked like they had stepped right out of a period drama. There is also a definite punkish thread that weaves itself through the collection via flashes of tartan, oversize knits, and offbeat asymmetric hemlines. In a nutshell, it's a celebration of everything that has been absent in our wardrobes over the last year: drama, frivolity, and plenty of ostentatious silhouettes.
There were a few highlights that genuinely made me gasp with delight, including a pink jacquard-patterned cloqué gown with a skirt that had zero gravity–like fullness. Note that this is coming from someone who usually wears a floral dress about once a year. I may have swooshed around the house in it for longer than was strictly necessary. On the other end of the spectrum was a pair of befrilled tartan trousers, which were very much up my street, and I plan on wearing them with simple white tees and loafers come summer.
But really, there are too many gems to name, and I have no doubt that many of these pieces will sell out in less than 10 minutes. With the collection set to drop at 8 a.m. UK time on March 11, the clock is now ticking, but in the meantime, scroll down to get my review of the best bits from Simone Rocha's H&M collaboration.
SHOP MY FAVORITE H&M x SIMONE ROCHA PIECES
Style Notes: If you're less inclined to love pastel pinks, then you might enjoy this moodier take on florals. Featuring billowing, puffed sleeves, a dramatic red-and-black print, a soft pleated skirt and an ever-so-slightly dropped waistline, it is a more muted alternative to the collection's OTT tulle designs. It's perfect for an autumn wedding with kitten heels and statement earrings, or for a punk twist, just add lace-up boots.
Style Notes: This is one of the pieces that will most sate the appetite of Rocha devotees. This lighter-than-air tulle frock features the designer's signature bust detailing in a bright-red hue that pairs beautifully with the pale beige. Coming in a generous oversize silhouette with puffed long sleeves and a high neckline, this was made to be creatively layered up. I went for the collection's color-match slip, but you could even do a white tee and jeans or a contrasting black mini underneath.
Style Notes: I have a feeling this cable knit will be one of the biggest sellers of the collection. The immense weight of this sweater is a testament to the quality of the materials, and it has a satisfying amount of slouch, so it's perfect if you like a loose silhouette. The sleeves are also oversized, which offers plenty of drama alongside the pearl-encrusted neckline. It's the ideal piece to dress down the collection's frothy tulle skirts and dresses, but it will also look very chic with jeans and boots.
Style Notes: There's a lot going on with this dress, but I'm a big fan of the punk-inspired undertones that come via the clash of tartan and tulle. The fit is quite straight, so it might be best to size up if you prefer a baggier fit or have a bigger bust or hips. It's also worth noting that you can see a sliver of midriff thanks to the mesh panel, but it's oh so subtle. This is definitely one to wear with "don't mess with me" combat boots.
Style Notes: For someone who hasn't worn a pink full-skirted dress since they were about 6, I was twirling around the flat in this for a rather extended amount of time. This is definitely one of the collection's showstoppers, and with its textured cloqué fabric and generous skirt, it creates a seriously dramatic fit. The top is designed to be fitted to give it that '50s silhouette, which is worth bearing in mind for sizing. I enjoyed the effect of layering over the sequinned top, which gave the whole look a more "fashion" finish. Oh, and it comes with pockets. Just call me Lady Whistledown.
Style Notes: This is one of my favorite pieces from the collection. It essentially has everything I could want from a pair of trousers: statement-making print, straight-leg silhouette, and a high-waisted fit. Cool, flattering and fun. It does come with an unusual frilled detailing that isn't attached to the pockets, which might make it difficult to wear tops that don't tuck in, but if you're prepared to look past that, you're in for a treat.
Style Notes: If you're not quite ready for puffball dresses, the collection's embellished tee is a great way to dip your toe into the Rocha aesthetic. It has a nice, boxy fit and features the designer's signature pearl bust detailing. An elevated wardrobe staple if we ever saw one. The skirt, meanwhile, was an unexpected winner for me, with its soft-pink hue and layered asymmetric hemline. Wear now with a chunky knit and then with a white tee and Birkenstocks come summer.
Style Notes: If I'm honest, I wasn't sure about this dress when I first saw it, but it's one of those ones that you need to try on to get the full effect. I'm not usually a fan of minidresses with a dropped hemline (they can look a bit "school disco circa 2001"), but there's something about the tartan print and the brogue shoes that make it feel undeniably cool. Oh, and speaking of the brogues, they are just too good to miss. Well constructed and comfortable, they will add personality to any outfit.
Style Notes: This is just pure, unadulterated summer style, from the white frills to the broderie anglaise fabric. If you love a good prairie dress, you'll enjoy the dress's ruffles, puffed sleeves, and ankle-length hemline. You can go all out with a straw hat and sandals or introduce a city spin with cowboy boots and a trench coat.
Style Notes: One of the few jackets in the edit, this oversize A-line coat has definite '60s dress coat vibes to it, which are accentuated by the light, trench coat–like fabric. There are a whole lotta ruffles and pearls on this piece, but thankfully, it's tempered by the muted black colorway.
Style Notes: 2021 brides, take note: This is the ankle-grazing dress you never knew you needed. With a similar fit to the pink cloqué dress, it's really one that needs to be right fit-wise. I am wearing one size bigger than I tried with the pink style, and the silhouette didn't work quite as well—you need that snug top half for it to work. Regardless, with its white, floral-textured fabric and voluminous skirts, you can't help but smile when you put it on.
Style Notes: This is an interesting one that I found somewhat tricky to style initially. It's described as a blazer, but it functions more like a belted blouse. It has a relatively loose fit, so it can be layered up easily, but I think you can really let your creativity go wild with this one. Try it with overalls, over a slip dress, or tucked into jeans. So many options, so little time.
Style Notes: It may not look like the most straightforward style, but trust me when I tell you that this will become your go-to piece for the summer months. It basically fits like a loose T-shirt dress but comes with a very Simone Rocha lace trim. I could also imagine layering it over flared black leggings for a more trend-led look.
Style Notes: I'll admit that this tulle top is an easier piece to work with in comparison to some of the dresses, so take note if you want a more low-maintenance option. When we're finally allowed out for drinks, I'll be throwing this over a black cami with gold hoops and black trousers. The bow-tie fastenings mean you can make it as tight or as loose as you like, making it ideal for all bust sizes.
Style Notes: The accessories in this edit are just as noteworthy as the dresses, and I decided to call out this bag, in particular, for its gorgeous, cartoon-like appeal. The thick yet soft fabric and oversize bows make it the ideal party number—Minnie Mouse would be all over it.
Style Notes: For those who were won over by 2020's smock silhouette, this is the dress for you. With a fitted crew neckline, long sleeves, thigh-grazing length, and tiered broderie anglaise fabric, it's a lovely summer dress for those who don't usually do summer dresses. Just add brogues or maybe even a pair of cowboy boots.
Style Notes: The first thing that hits you about this coat is its amazing pastel-pink hue, which somehow manages to avoid feeling too saccharine. Perhaps it's the tinsel-detail tweed fabric, which gives it a high-end finish, or the vintage-inspired Peter Pan collar and covered buttons. I didn't expect the silhouette to be as sculptural as it was, but the sleeves gather so beautifully, and the belted fastening gives the perfect cinched fit.
Style Notes: You don't get much more drama than this see-through ribbon-tie midi dress. Unashamedly "fashion" and so escapist, I'm sure it's one that magazine editors will be all over. Interestingly, the skirt doesn't go all the way around, so it fits more like an apron, but this makes it perfect for creating that mash-up layering look that runs through the collection.