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Glamour interviews designer Rok Hwang & H&M’s Ann-Sofie about their exciting new collab

H&M has once again delighted die hard fashion enthusiasts with the announcement of their latest designer collab. South Korean born, raised in the United States and studied in the UK, Rok Hwang of the brand Rokh, describes himself as a citizen of the world. Redefining the classic work wear essentials, Rokh infuses a fresh and exciting contrast to the mundane. Glamour had the priviledge of interviewing Rokh on this partnership as well as with Ann-Sofie, Head of Design Womenswear and Creative Advisor at H&M.

Glamour: Congratulations on your collaboration with H&M. What was your first thought when you were approached about a potential collab?

Rokh: First of all, I was quite shocked, but in a very positive way. Shocked and thrilled. H&M has done so many great collaborations in the past with some very established and iconic brands, so for us it’s a real milestone. The other thing that makes this collaboration really special is that H&M wanted the central focus to really be true to who I am as a designer. They have such a depth of knowledge and so much experience in launching these types of collaborations, but they gave me full freedom to explore my ideas and translate my codes. It means I can really deliver Rokh to the world. I’m very excited.

Image Supplied: H&M ROKH Collaboration

Glamour: What were your hopes for this partnership when you agreed, and have they changed at all now that the collection is releasing?

Rokh: Rokh pieces are actually really timeless and easily integrated with other styles in the wardrobe. I always really focus on the idea that, if you have this item, you will wear it for a long time. From the outset, I was determined that this collection would also have customisable elements so that customers can engage with the styles personally and wear them in their own way. I’m happy we are able to share some iconic Rokh styles in the collection such as the double-trench coat for women and the multi-button coat for men, both of which can be worn in many different ways. In terms of what I hoped for the partnership, I wanted to introduce Rokh to more people. But what I didn’t expect was that, in the process of going through my own archive, I would fall in love again with what I had created, picking up details and elements that I wanted to enhance. It’s been a very helpful process.

Glamour: As a South Korean who was raised in Texas, United States and moved to the United Kingdom as a teenager where you’re now based, how has your upbringing influenced your work?

Rokh: I always say I’m a citizen of the world! My upbringing has given me a really broad perspective, and it means that I define Rokh as an international fashion house. We have a strong customer base in Asia, and we are very proud of our Korean roots, but I also grew up in the US, studied in the UK, and now we show our collections in Paris during Paris Fashion Week. I love to travel, and I love to take inspiration from all of these places and bring them to our collections. I’m also happy I can now tick Stockholm off my list, having visited several times to do fittings with H&M – it’s a great city.

Glamour: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Rokh: My design language is something you have to pay attention to notice – a piece might have a classic appearance, but when you look closer, the way we cut garments is quite radical. I love the paradox of cutting a piece with a dramatic shape that goes against the body, or using a fabric composition that’s unexpected. It’s a bit of fun that we enjoy.

Glamour: What can we expect next from your brand?

Rokh: At the moment we are focussed on our next runway show in Paris for autumn/winter 2024 and then we’ve got something very exciting planned for the H&M launch – I can’t wait to reveal it to the world.

Ann-Sofie Johansson, Head of Design Womenswear and Creative Advisor at H&M

Glamour: Congratulations on your new designer collaboration with Rokh. This appears to be a slight departure from H&M’s previous collabs in that Rokh is an emerging brand. What inspired the partnership?

Ann-Sofie: We have had an eye on Rokh and designer Rok Hwang for a few years now, mainly because he has such an interesting way of working with tailoring. It’s quite conceptual in some ways, but also very versatile and wearable, which is a balance our customers love. In terms of our collaboration strategy at H&M, I wouldn’t call this collaboration a departure – we always like to have a mix of iconic houses and more emerging brands, because it’s important to us to support and lend our platform to young talents. If you think back, we’ve done this in the past with the independent Irish designer Simone Rocha, the American label Brock Collection, and the Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz, to name just a few. And we’ve also collaborated with people we feel have iconic style, such as Anna Dello Russo and Iris Apfel. We felt that Rokh was doing something really interesting so we reached out to the team last year and were very happy when they accepted our proposal to collaborate.

Glamour: What was your intention regarding the consumer in collaborating with Rokh? A few of your consumers might not be very familiar with Rokh but since the unveiling of this partnership I am certain they’ll be excited to own a piece of his design aesthetic.

Ann-Sofie: We’re always looking to surprise and delight our customers, and to give them something they can’t get anywhere else. Even if they perhaps haven’t come across Rokh before, I’m certain they’ll be excited by the collection. What we fell for was the tailoring, which is a category our customers love – he has such a distinctive aesthetic for ayoung designer. Then there’s the international element of Rokh. Like everyone, at H&M we’re so excited by Korean culture at the moment, from K-Pop music to incredible movies and TV shows, so we felt it was a good time to embrace Korean fashion, too. But Rok also studied in London and the US and is now showing his collections at Paris Fashion Week, so he has a very international perspective that really ties in with our international customer base. It was also clear from the first meeting that we were on the same wavelength, so it was a true collaboration from the beginning.

Glamour: What can we expect from this collection?

Ann-Sofie: The highlights are incredible deconstructed tailoring, really distinctive pieces that will make a statement, but at the same time are easy to wear. Rok has been very generous in sharing his icons with us, so we have the double trench coat which is so versatile and cool, and the button coat for men which can be worn in lots of different ways. There are some beautiful, feminine corseted pieces that are also customisable – you can unhook the hem of a hook-and- eye dress to change up the silhouette, in a way that reminds me a little of some of the details in our Toga collaboration from a few years back. There are also some fantastic long double belts, which are another Rokh signature, that really switch up a silhouette or add an edge to an outfit.

Glamour: H&M is a prominent fashion retailer and as such holds great weight within the fashion landscape. How do you continue to maintain your relevancy?

Ann-Sofie: For us it’s about remaining consistent when it comes to delivering great fashion at an affordable price point. One of the pillars of our strategy is collaborations, which our customers absolutely love, and we want to continue giving them access to incredible, historic fashion pieces that they can’t get anywhere else. But at the same time, we also want to keep innovating and experimenting, working with the most talented creatives in the industry to stay at the top of our game.

Glamour: Lastly, do you have a favourite piece or look from the collection?

Ann-Sofie: There are so many nice things – it’s hard to choose. I always love jewellery so the ball earrings in gold and silver are a good option for me. The belted blazer is really cool with the belt adding a kind of punky element. I love the double leather belt that I already mentioned. And the double trench is a classic Rokh piece, where the inside of the coat can be unbuttoned to change up the silhouette and attitude. That’s the kind of piece I can see myself wearing for many years to come.

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