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July 26 2014

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Paris Menswear: Raf Simons Shows “Fragments,” Skirts

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A season ago, Raf Simons compared high fashion to an addiction, then offered a collection of mature, sober tailoring to slake the addict’s thirst. There were still plenty of suits, collars and ties in his new collection, but there were also elements in his Fall presentation which took a more skewed view, almost like a look back to those days when Simons brooded on the instinctive tribalism of young men and made fashion from his brooding. The racing stripe graphism of elongated tops was almost a football shirt. A rubber caban or a nylon blouson reminded me a little of Simons’s early, more industrial collections. And if you added some face-paint to the group which paired knit tops and skirts over pants, you’d have a Celtic war-party (or at least a real scrap on your hands). Inevitably, men in skirts awaken the Jean Paul Gaultier connection. Simons also showed trench coats (another Gaultier signature) elaborately reconfigured as a sort of tiered dress, or simply truncated into a skirt. He called such an item “a fragment,” and the concept of things trimmed or reduced did seem to feature again in a cutaway nylon coat, or clothes bunched and gathered by side-tabs, a trick Simons also used in his show for Jil Sander in Milan. But both there and here, the pitfalls of the designer’s endless forward movement—his constant re-analysis of fashion design—were exposed. “A fragment” can become an abstraction. What’s its point? It was intriguing that the show began with a burst of dialogue from Gattaca, the film that for me always best reflected the Simons aesthetic in its romantic, melancholic longing to hang on to time, alongside a pragmatic acknowledgment of time’s passing. There’s still a lot of pragmatism in Raf, but it was the melancholy that used to make his work so seductive.
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Photo: Andrew Thomas

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