Raf Simons’ deceptively clean Fall 2019 menswear collection carried a characteristically angst ridden nuanced message that is nearly impossible to decode. Almost every look in the collection consisted of a beautiful couture-like coat or elongated suit jacket that extended to the floor. The dramatically long silhouettes swept the floor like royal or priestly robes. An unmistakeable military reference permeated the collection. The references were visible not only in the officers coats, but in the unusual head gear accessorizing every look. Oversized helmets in a soft fabric dangled exaggerated chin straps with a baseball-like bill peaking out from behind the helmets. In decoding the meaning of the hats, some compared the shape to a jockey or baseball cap, although the overarching aesthetic was clearly WWII soldier. The slightly oversized coats with sloping shoulders felt moody and non-complicit, and yet one gets the sense that these soldiers are unwilling to fight a war that’s been imposed upon them.
David Lynch fans will surely be delighted to see photographic images from Blue Velvet of Laura Dern screaming into a phone seen on patches displayed across the chests, and as a shoulder detail on coats and sweaters. Laura Dern herself was at the show, but why would Raf Simons reference Blue Velvet in this collection? You get the sense that it has more to do with anxiety and institutional corruption, than the more obvious outre sexual material in the film. The brightly colored second half of the show appeared to rebel from the prospect of war, and felt more optimistic. Other motifs included X-ray bones images, And D rings hooks hanging butterflies, flowers and broken hearts. The playful and pretty charms imply that these soldiers wish to define themselves in a completely different way than what is expected of them. Could this be Raf Simons anti-war declaration? Perhaps a secret message? Tiny blocks of text stamped onto knees, cuffs and collars lent some clues to the thoughts behind the collection in script that read “Burning Down the House”, “Xanthophobic” (fear of the color yellow), and “Hero’s Losers.”
While Raf Simons’ collections can sometimes be hard to decipher, they always evoke a powerful mood of a sensitive rebel, or underdog. This is what makes them feel so personal. Deeply inspired by music, Simons dedicated the second half of his show to the band the “Whispering Sons,” who staged a live performance as an interlude midway through the show. The young Belgian post-punk band describes their music as “unveiling feelings of alienation.” It’s those powerful emotions and energy of youth, along with an intellectual precision honed by maturity that gives Raf Simons complex work the same timelessness and staying power as that of cult classic films and music. All eyes are on Raf Simons to see what he will do next.