I am obsessed with a picture from the Man About Town editorial taken by Willy Vanderperre and featured in our latest Top 10. This picture forced me to take a second look at the Spring Summer 2016 collection of Raf Simons, watching it in movement on YouTube and of course through the style.com data which is now Vogue.com/fashion shows (Don't you miss Tim Blanks and Style.com like I do?). This picture is the portrait of a cloaked check boy with a red sleeveless jumper, his face hidden behind one of these oversize hoodies, one of the many showstopper pieces of this collection. Faceless models have a precedent. I literally think of Martin Margiela hiding his model's faces with masks to question the system of supermodels back in the days, to turn the attention on the clothes, to let the clothes speak for themselves, to disrupt with the way of presenting fashion. There is also an allusion to the role of the designer that should remain in the shadow. Anonymity and time are something designers cannot afford. This silhouette says a lot about the state of the fashion industry. Some designers like Rei Kawakubo and back then Martin Margiela had chosen this path to protect themselves from the circus of this industry. Other designers are choosing to show up when it's very necessary like Phoebe Philo. Raf Simons and Alexander Wang left big conglomerates to focus on their independent eponymous brands. Maybe I am going too deep in the interpretation but I can see a way of targeting the system by this act of refusal, of rebellion. There is also this idea of a teenager hiding himself under garments that are way too big for him, using this big hoodie like a weapon toward the world surrounding him. I finally see the beauty of youth behind this picture, after all these digressions. Maybe that's what it's all about in this collection? I was thinking of different slogans like "growing up is not giving up" or "keep your innocence, stay punk" ! In other words that are not mine: "live free with strong spirit"!
Raf Simons is delivering a breathtaking youth inspired manifesto for his first next 20 years collection. Honestly, I did not 100% agree with Simons's silhouettes. I wasn't very excited to see Grandpa check shirts, crop and rip knits and these baggy come-back or slouchy trousers if you prefer making their appearance on the catwalk. I was very disturbed and, I have to say, even disappointed. Only the pierced oversized outerwear with their big frontal zips gave me something to cheer up. I didn't understand this SS16 collection at first but it all makes sense now. Initial reactions are not always the best ones. Like designers need time to create, sometimes I need time to let the magic happen. Raf Simons is looking to the past (or refusing to look to the future) like his AW15 anniversary collection to find a sort of pastoral modernity. There's an ode to classic, to youth subcultures, to the 90's, to Margiela, to the Antwerp fashion, to fashion in general and to the young & restless teen boy who is living inside him. Somehow when I was a student I used to wear shrunken slinky knit with my big old ripped hem baggy pants. Maybe that's why I disliked it at first because I found it not relevant at all. The look was already there. What's the point? Simons's ability to capture the past and bring up a new silhouette is not to be proven after what he has done for his eponymous brand, for Jil Sander, for Dior and for Eastpak & Adidas. He is playing with classic, deconstructing it, composing something I didn't expect like these giant hoodies, the big baggy pants, the faded colors, the pierced argyle pattern on the coats, the sleeveless knit galore, the crop and shrunken sweaters.
This collection is risky, moving, beautiful and personal. Not many designers can look back to the past with so much inventiveness, making people think about their own teenage years. I don't know how to explain it but this collection reminds me of how I used to dress when I was a student. I used to buy vintage outerwear I paired with baggy pants. My look was very bad and it has nothing to do with this Raf Simons Spring Summer 2016 collection. Yet, it has this vibe of mixing old with young, classic with streetwear. Soon after, Punk Rock broke my heart and I could spend hours looking for a pair of skinny jeans on ebay. I am a kind of grown-up now and I will proudly wear my big Ximon Lee x H&M denim trousers with a lot of attitude but without losing my innocence!
Pics by Virginia Arcaro via Dazed Digital
Words by Yann Sackville-West