It's Raf Simons Week in Paris. In a few days, his first haute couture collection for Dior will follow the spring collection for his own label that he showed tonight. They may seem poles apart, but the impact of the Dior appointment was clear in Raf's menswear. Or at least, it was obvious that he'd gone back to reflect on his past by boarding that what-brought-me-to-here? train of thought that often follows on the heels of great good fortune. And what his reflection illuminated was how much of what looks current in men's fashion was proposed by Raf at one point or another since he started designing menswear in 1995. Shorts, for instance, have been a Simons staple. He's always combined classic tailoring and sportswear, and integrated art into his fashion. He's a grand colorist, and an aficionado of the masculine/feminine hybrid. But more than anything, he's been fashion's great apologist for the power and poignancy of youth.
Both were on parade here, the Green Velvet club classic on the soundtrack a reminder of the Antwerp nights kids like him never wanted to end, the bare legs and tangled hair tokens of the vulnerable self-consciousness that comes with a certain age. But if that was Raf's past, he was keen to explore how it could fuse with his future. And if it was physically impossible to fuse time, he would do it with gender.
In one of Kurt Cobain's most memorable portraits, he's wearing a floral dress. That grunge memory resurfaced in Raf's collection when he sealed the back of a pleated floral sundress to the front of a sober tailored coat. It was the most startling expression of the current of androgyny that pulsed through the show. Others: the shorts with their perverse little slit; the perforated tops that could have been Aertex mesh or broderie anglaise; the huge painted faces by L.A. artist Brian Calvin that decorated oversize tees, with their staring eyes. "I love eyes," the designer said. He loves a challenge too, because he feels challenges initiate communication. Hell, the conversation between the Dior woman and the Raf man has already started.
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