To start his Fall collection for Jil Sander, Raf Simons set his team a technical challenge. "I asked the tailors to work on dresses, and the dressmakers to get involved with the tailoring. I wanted to see how we could use heavy tweed in a fresh, elegant, architectural way." The results: fitted dresses, with raised darts running vertically through the torso or horizontally around the body; jackets with high, asymmetrically wrapped funnel necks; a long essay on the pantsuit. It was severe, austere, and it kept many in the audience rapt at the sight of an intelligent designer working on a vision of dressing that applies to a life they actually find themselves leading.
Perhaps it takes an outsider to get a new perspective on this. Simons comes from menswear, from a tradition that respects practical end uses and appreciates how tiny calibrations of cut and fabric can change the sense of a garment. He's also equipped with an analytical mind that doesn't confuse the drive to be innovative with designing "conceptually." It's been a long time since womenswear designers have entered that kind of discussion, but now that a talent has cropped up who is attending to such issues as what to wear to work, or how to dress for evening while staying sleek and sophisticated, no wonder the fashion-disenfranchised are riveted.
There was plenty in this collectionthe long-sleeve day dresses, the extraordinary tucked-wool evening columnto satisfy this audience. Truth to tell, though, there are aspects of Simons' work that need further refinement. One: The hobbling, painful footwear he insists on using is antithetical to a female-friendly aesthetic. Two: his pants. Something about them is still not working, after three seasons of his showing virtually the same shape. They may be as skinny as can be, but when the models walked away, something wrinkly was going on that really needs to be fixed. Preferably by a tailor rather than a dressmaker.