Perhaps it takes one northern soul to understand another. In Raf Simons, a young Belgian man, it looks as if the Germanic purity of Jil Sander's womanly aesthetic has finallyafter many painful seasonsfound a worthy successor. Pantsuits, white shirts, scrubbed faces, clean hair: This was a back-to-basics show, but its attenuated lines gave the collection a confident shape. Backstage, Simons said shouldering the responsibility for continuity "feels good. This is an intimate company. It's all here, so I didn't have to worry about anything except concentrating on the outline."
This house, of course, is founded on jackets and trousers, both of which Simons upheld to the letter. Boxy jackets cut from volume-retaining fabric came balanced over arrow-narrow, boy-tailored pants and high, wedge-heel boots. With those exaggerated lines he redrew the template upon which he superimposed refinements on Sander standards: short pea coats with sharply delineated volumes, two-button jackets, fly-front coats studded with a single top button, padded shapes in luxe techno fabric. They all walked by, in multiple fabric variations and colors from dark brown to inky black to ecrua tad too many, in fact, to make the point.
Just in time, Simons veered away from all that monasticism with black buttoned-up shirtdresses and loose, artily pleated shifts familiar to Sander fans. Where he made his own imprint was in a series of sinuously flowing floor-length dresses. Long-sleeve, and plain or simply knotted in front, they turned to reveal bare skin, and a tender gathering of folds drawn into the small of the back. Minimal, respectful, and highly erotic, they were a signal, perhaps, of something unusual Simons can bring to fashion: the touch of a heterosexual man.