Raf Simons is about to become a godfather. He was picturing the Alexander Calder mobile suspended over his show space today as the perfect godfatherly gift—if the nursery had 40-foot ceilings and he had $15 million to spend. The Calder, a couple of others like it, and two structures designed by the legendary architect Jean Prouvé (basically blueprints for a gas station and a prefab house) filled the gallery that Larry Gagosian has created near Le Bourget airstrip outside Paris. It was absolute coincidence that it should be work by Calder and Prouvé that was on display when Simons staged his presentation, but the synchronicity of art and fashion simply offered more proof that there is no such thing as an accident. The mechanical nature of the Calders and the mass-producible design of the Prouvés tied into a Pop art something in Simons' show. You could see it in the kiddie giddiness of elongated tees made up like walking ads, or pieces that looked like play clothes—onesies, gym slips—for adults.
The nu-beat soundtrack was an obvious cue to the Simons of a long time ago, when he was clubbing in Antwerp with his friends Olivier Rizzo and Willy Vanderperre. There was a thread of rave-y glow-stick idealism in this collection, harking back to when they were all just skinny boys with the world at their chemically enhanced fingertips. That's what the silhouettes said, too. "This is the new shape," one tee announced. "Artificially flavored," it added.
Nature versus artifice: that might have been the core of it all. A lot of the fabrics were purely synthetic, but the sentiment behind them was as real and as ardent as the one that drove Simons nearly 20 years ago when he made clothes inspired by the songs of angry young men. But something had to change. Less anger, more light. A sense of fun. The key word for Simons was "freedom." He is known for his tailoring, but there was precious little of that here, because suits are ultimately just another restrictive uniform.
A Simons show is always a proposal. Ideas need to be digested, recast in their essence. That will happen here, too. You'll see these things filter into the world in one free form or another. But what we saw tonight was Raf Simons staking a claim to his own legacy: I was here; I did this.