The way Raf Simons tells it, he was sitting around with his team discussing the new minimalism and that got him thinking about its inverse, maximalism, which led him instantly to haute couture. That presented an implicit challenge to the very essence of the Jil Sander woman, and it must have excited Simons, because it inspired a standout collection that looked to have revived his commitment to the label. For a designer who is as mesmerized by line and proportion as he is, there can ultimately be no more seductive métier than couture—but where traditional couturiers have been paying lip service to the modernizing possibilities of the T-shirt-and-ball-gown combo for a dog's age, he made it a walking, talking proposition with his opening passage of major skirts and minor tops. (This may call for a tip of the cap to Isaac Mizrahi, but read on.)
Couture gigantism took hold with infantas of flowers and stripes, though Simons was keen to ground any notion of excess. The music veered from Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack for Psycho to Busta Rhymes. The models carried what looked like plastic shopping bags. A navy parka wrapped Freja Beha Erichsen's strapless bubble of Japanese techno taffeta. Such offhand extravagance reminded some onlookers of Yves Saint Laurent's fascination with the English operagoers who'd throw a raincoat over their ball gowns when they went to the cultural institution Glyndebourne in the south of England.
The YSL poke was appropriate for another inescapable reason. Simons has been trying to unravel Saint Laurent's color sense since at least before his men's show at Pitti Uomo in Florence in June. His forensic analysis carried over into this collection. Where do you start giving this palette its due? The green cargo jacket with the pink tank and the yellow palazzo pants? The violet blouson over the gown in fluoro orange? The red coat layered over pink and yellow jackets? Such lightness. Simons said it best: "A mille-feuille of color."
If the show had a hell-bent-for-leather verve about it, Simons really had no choice. There is no way you could make this kind of statement in a half-hearted way. But among the grand gestures, the collection could be broken down into a slew of want-ables: the parkas, for one thing; the stripes; all the tailoring. Still, in an ideal world, it would be those huge, glorious skirts that would be sweeping all before them down your local high street.