What is it about the twenties that is playing on so many designers' minds? For Raf Simons at Jil Sander, it was the moment the Parisian avant-garde discovered African art and gave birth to modernism: Simons referenced this by projecting a Man Ray photograph of Kiki de Montparnasse cradling an African head sculpture onto the backdrop of the runway as the audience assembled. Simons said it was just a matter of spontaneous instinct that made him take flapper fringing as a central device in the show. "But it was more about the aesthetics of that time. I didn't want to do a 'Charleston' collection," he said. "Jil Sander must always be pure, and I'm aware of making any reference minimal, but I also want to show my freedom to be inspired by the moment."
The opening of the show was a powerfully graphic series of one-color silhouettes in which silken skeins of fringing were draped over stretch bodysuits. It began a sequence of precision-cut experiments in form that abstracted tailoring into unexpected elementsshorts suits sliced into sharp, asymmetric angles at the front; hemlines constructed from rectangular panels; jackets made with a swooping drape in the back; leather shifts with incisions left open at the hip.
To be sure, Simons' exhaustive demonstrations of a million new ways to loop, drape, and fly a fringe (they even dangled to floor level on bags) did eventually tip over into tedium. He could have dispensed with a lot of that, but the development of his overriding vision of a clean, even glacial modernism is a powerful thing to watch.