The gardens of what is reputedly the most beautiful villa in all of Florence provided the venue for the celebration of Raf Simons' fifth anniversary designing Jil Sander menswear. And, as he told Style.com the other day, the setting also offered up nature as an inspiration. She was at her most wayward on Thursday, blowing out the windows at Pitti with a raging hailstorm, casting a lowering shadow over Raf's garden party, but then providing an epic sunset for guests as they arrived at the villa. You can't compete with those effects. But Simons is certainly the right designer to extract order from all that chaos. He chose friction as a response, just as you'd expect him to.
To a soundtrack of vintage techno, almost by definition the most unnatural sound known to man, he presented a profusion of color—but unlike any colors you'd find in nature. Intense fluoro shades were combined and layered to create a synthetic sundae. A hot pink shirt paired with bright orange pants sounds like the kind of combo that might generate some hibiscus heat. In Simons' hands, it was a cool, precise challenge to nature's own chaotic palette. As literal as he got was a floral print, dark and clotted. It translated well to a jersey body with a tattoo effect (bringing to mind an old something by Jean Paul Gaultier, a designer Simons admires).
The overt sensuality of such an item and the op art graphism of some striped pieces struck chords in a collection that otherwise felt familiar. The uniform tailoring is a Simons signature. Interrupting the formality of that tailoring by showing a jacket with a pair of what looked like boxers is the kind of boy-centric ploy he's used before. The synthetic color-blocking is not new to him (hello, Yves Klein blue). Even the accordion pleating on a jacket sleeve or the back of a coat harked back to the recent past. Predictability would once have been anathema to Raf, but again, as he said to Style.com, he wants to "free Jil from itself," leave a different kind of vocabulary for whoever eventually follows him at Jil Sander. As a man with legacy (and an anniversary) on his mind, it makes sense he would want to consolidate the signatures he's established at the brand. So this was the kind of familiarity that bred content (not quite the old-shoe variety, though, because the pink-soled black oxfords were a gold star). Still, familiarity was an odd sensation to feel at the end of anything connected to Raf Simons. Nature at least was patient. The rain held off till the last models had disappeared back into the topiary.