Today was the day. I know, I know: it's hard to know what week it is right now. But March 11th was a day I had actually been aware of arriving, and had prepared for. Today was the day that Simone Rocha's collaboration with H&M was to drop online.
If you are interested in fashion you’ll know that H&M has been collaborating with high-end designers since 2004, starting with Karl Lagerfeld. The result each time is a one-off capsule collection sold at high-street prices. In 2010, Lanvin did a collection. I still have the one piece I bought and have loved ever since: an exquisite midnight-blue silk-satin coat with exposed seams, a detachable feather collar and jewelled buttons.
So this week, with H&M’s shops shut, I had been scrutinising Rocha’s collection online. I wanted just one piece. First on my wish list, the black tulle “tinsel” overdress. If that wasn’t available, I had also spent a long time contemplating the black structured coat with pearl collar. I could definitely love that coat a lot.
At the back of my head was some future hopeful social evening of gregarious friendship, where I showed up wearing something fabulous, to spend time with people I’ve hardly seen in a year. Looking at the collection was also about trying to look into the post-Covid future, and imagining a time when I could wear these beautiful clothes out in company.
I did a bit of research. It seemed the collection would go live at 8am. The H&M website itself had a message saying that, one hour before the collection went live, the website would be getting ready. Just in case March 11th started in H&M time at a minute past midnight on March 10th, I looked online then. No. No action.
I was up before sunrise today, with my phone and my iPad all ready. I had even gone to the trouble of finding out what my Eircode was, all the faster to check out. Sure enough, at 7am, up on my two screens came the message "Simone Rocha x H&M. You're in the queue to shop the designer collaboration. Please hold on – it will be worth the wait." Under this, and underlined, were the words "Try again."
So I kept refreshing the page. Trying again. The little message kept telling me I was in the queue and it would be worth the wait. I made coffee, barely taking my gaze off my screens. Eight o’clock came and went. Nothing happened. “Please hold on...”
I calmly held on – and while I was holding on, at about 8.40am, looked at Twitter. To my amazement, people were already chattering about their Simone Rocha swag. How had they got online? How many people had got in the queue before me? My calm deserted me. I jabbed the “Try again” instruction once more. The infuriating pink screen remained there.
On my phone, I had had the website open on another browser I hadn’t looked at. The site was live on that one. I was confused. There were the images of the clothes and accessories, but pretty much everything I looked at was marked “Sold out”. The black tulle overdress? Sold out in every size. The structured coat with pearl-embellished collar? Sold out in every size.
I’d known it was a kind of lottery as to who would get what, with such hype around the collection, and such interest. When I saw my tulle tinsel dress was gone, I realised how much I had been invested in planning to wear it to some convivial social event in the coming months. It wasn’t just a gorgeous dress. It was also to be proof that better times would come.
I bought two white sparkly hair grips instead. They were all that was left. It’s a lot harder to get excited about the social possibilities of showing off a couple of hair grips.
I contacted H&M to ask why I had been unable to get into the site, even though I was supposedly queuing. I was not meant to refresh the “Please hold on” page, said a spokesperson. So why did “Please hold on” have “Try again” underneath it? The spokesperson agreed it had been a confusing message. Well, yes, H&M, it was a hugely frustrating and confusing message.
And, of course, lots of people who did manage to buy online today have no plans to wear their Simone Rocha clothes anywhere postlockdown. My tinsel tulle dress is already on sale on eBay for multiples of what it sold for this morning.
I’m over it now. Kind of.