June 27, 2008
"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." Using the style of New York artist Christopher Wool, Raf Simons stenciled those words by Leonard Cohen in the courtyard of the educational institution where he staged his latest show. He also embroidered them on tops, with colored threads trailing like a delicate fringe. As well as Cohen and Wool, Simons had in mind Robert Ryman, all of them "artists who dedicate life to the slight evolution of things." It's a sensibility that breeds an obsessive attention to detail, and Simons fits right in. He wanted to make a statement about extreme tailoring, just like his very first collection which, as he said, no one ever saw. So he took the tuxedo, the purest masculine tailoring there is, and sliced away the sleeves and legs, leaving an all-in-one. Then he built this basic back up, adding a waistcoat, a jacket, and finally returning to the suit itself. It was a hypnotic, compulsive exercise in rigorous design. As Simons himself said, it was "the anti-pajama"the antithesis of all the soft, voluminous, ultracasual clothing that has dominated the men's runways this season.
But it was scarcely even the main event. What was equally enthralling was the effort that went into the texture of the clothes. Fabrics that had the densely pressed effect of handmade paper were actually embroidered. So were what looked like tweeds (and at least 50 percent of the rest of the collection). And the embroidered dégradé effect Simons used so impactfully last season was revisited in a suit where a dense mass of filaments slowly dissolved from dark to light down the body. BTW, Leonard Cohen's words were from an album called The Future. Raf knows whereof he quotes.