The audience filed in to the accompaniment of Mark Leckey's cult 1999 film, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, and its mesmerizing footage of rave kids set the scene for an exultant trip down memory lane for Raf Simons. "I felt like having fun," he said backstage, after a show that featured many of the elements—the narrow silhouettes, the sleeveless tops—that we've come to think of as classic Raf.

Naturally, though, he was also quick to point out that his collection was as much about the future as it was about happy memories. That was evident in the windcoats, with their floating volumes, garments akin to those worn by the astral pioneers in David Lynch's Dune. But it was Simons' obsession with shorts that most clearly showed this prescient and incisive designing mind at work. Shorts will always be associated with the schoolboy, and that's where Simons started, with suits that looked like uniforms. Then the shorts transmogrified into style statements involving wraps, waistbands, and pleating.

To take one sartorial element, then de- and reconstruct it is the sort of cerebral activity Simons loves to engage in—and somehow manages to make consistently fascinating. Part of the charm was the staging of this show: After the usual single-model walk-out, a file of young men would offer variations on a theme (color-blocked sleeveless tees, for instance, or shorts suits). In their uniformity, they paradoxically emphasized individuality. Don't ask how Simons achieves such effects—put it down to sublime empathy.