Escalators may be a good luck charm for Raf Simons
. The show he staged on them in 2004 lingers in the memory as one of his best. Tonight, history repeated, with models falling and rising on the escalators of a building that was once the headquarters of the bank Credit Lyonnais. There was a mechanical grace to the show that underscored the kind of serial uniformity that is important to Simons's work (hence the march of the models with their identical patent-slick hair and their black suits).
He has a successful sideline as a consultant/curator in the art world, and there is some of the artist's process in the way he approaches fashion. That serial element, for one thing, evident here in the way Simons offered identical looks in a range of colors, like a Warhol silkscreen. Then there is the way he has built his own visual vocabulary - the sleek monochrome tailoring, the confident use of color, even the sleeveless tops - which it is his on-going work to refine. In today's presentation, the most striking element was the visual dynamism of plaids scissored into kaleidoscopic patterns.
Simons has an ambiguous relationship with the mainstream fashion industry, so it was possible to see his plaids as a last-word comment on the menswear industry's current hunger for pattern and print. Think of his bright orange checks as a floral. Or the flowers intarsia-ed across his knitwear as his version of a Hawaiian shirt.
Everything Simons does is, in one way or another, a meditation on youth: celebrating its beauty, energy, and idealism, acknowledging it must pass. Hence the nostalgic undertow in his work. And, as much as he downplays the tendency to romanticism, it's there. What this collection's kineticism reaffirmed was that Simons is able to inject emotion into something that seems consummately cool and controlled.