Raf Simons AW13

Hello, it’s been a while. Since I wrote and since the menswear shows ended. I really did want to write/discuss on more of the shows and I will continue to look at them as time goes on. Some of the underground and independent designers are premiering their collections now and these designers always have got something new.  But that’s for later. Now I want to focus on one of, if not, the most definitive designer/s in menswear: Raf Simons

This collection speaks for itself and though there are many themes, all came through quite clearly, and that is why I love it so dearly. Raf is obviously very happy, at Dior of course and with himself. Why wouldn’t he be? Rave review upon rave review has been the soundtrack to his hiring at Dior. The couture was utterly transcendent but simply so. For the first time, colour has invaded Raf’s aesthetic and given it life. Everything was so new, so vibrant, in colour and design. The clothes for AW13 had personality, wit and utter imagination at its core. The question motif on coats and jumpers came in the first look and the questioning theme tempered the whole collection as, not for the first time, Raf subverted and then reconstructed menswear to his liking.

The main themes were of the dandy, David Bowie (70s), and modernity. The dandy was unhinged today, sort of broken out of his happy shell and more into eccentricity. The upturned collars, untucked shirts and visible cuffs were all added to the A-line coats and angular tie-scarf-cravats- whatever-you-want-to-call-its that cut off the neck and played with the collars of the coats. Though all the coats were in a dark palette, it didn’t need anything extra. Double chest pockets and no collars gave way to interesting styling on the neck (seen in looks 1, 8, 20 and 28) and the long lengths shrouding the body. The sleeveless coats however had more of an strengthening effect on the looks.

A ode to the seventies , lately popular, and David Bowie came in the sleeveless twinsets over untucked shirts and full cut trousers. The turtleneck and things done with the neck was ever present in different colours and styles; under jackets, shirts and as knitted stripy mohair jumpers. Raf’s twist was the arm warmers over some thin jumpers and over shirts as an extra accessory. The stylistic disheveledness also gave a feeling of Bowie, who always did his own thing especially with the way his Ziggy Stardust alter-ego was portrayed. The layered (!) hair was inspired by Japanese manga but could as easily be a show style for a new age popstar e.g. Ziggy Stardust. Guido Palau created something that stunned and it was amazing to see something in fiction come to reality.

Collars were everywhere. Mr. Simons used the neck area to such effect in this collection and it even changed how whole looks felt and their personas. Take for example the necktie, it added to the dandyesque look as  a modern cravat but then the huge peaked collars, used with the same coat, gave urbane ganster vibes that possess a secretive malevolence. The sleeveless long moto jackets added polished ruggedness. More importantly, the detachable shoulder bars were unexpected but looked wearable. I got a reference to restraint, literally holding back the chest but didn’t really know what they were for and that I think was the whole point. To be something new in the tide of skinny jeans and beanies that have been around for so long and propose an idea that redefines menswear again. That is what Mr. Simons is best at doing; the new.

He set off the  look that popularised skinny fits and cuts; with help from Hedi or the other way round (who knows) but I am supporting Raf because Hedi was petulant and childish about Cathy Horyn’s denouncement (in 2004) prasing Raf Simons. I think the line he took most offence to was this, talking about Mr. Simons, she said, “Beginning with the skinny suits that made his reputation nearly a decade ago and made a Hedi Slimane possible…” Hedi replied by not inviting her to his début womenswear ready-to-wear show for Saint Laurent  and with this. I can understand his anger as he might think that credit was given where it was not due but that’s no way to go about reconciling it.

For AW13, Mr Simons said “I think I’m out to challenge how a look is defined as something that is modern for men right now in this moment in time. And I think, generally speaking, it defines as a look, which is slicked back with a trendy shoe, a trendy sock or a more voluminous kind of thing. I think that’s been very present in men’s collections, including in my own, and it just doesn’t feel so challenging to me anymore.” “If men (are) like that right now you’re happy to offer it, but I also like to challenge it and find out what else it could be.” This was focused into a redefinition of silhouette. The ‘voluminous’ items here were reduced and cut into a more forgiving shape, one that was bigger towards the bottom of the garments than the top. They were definitely more masculine than other offerings of the season, with the main focus on tailoring and less of the streetwear influenced items of Mr. Simons’ seasons past. But he hasn’t totally forgotten his money makers and the shoes that were included were either hybrids or futuristic, technical running shoes. Like the ones for AW12 but with more colour. He has wit too, bucketloads to spare as he designed backpacks, in partnership with Eastpak, and presented them in their usual way: on the back but also made them silky portfolios, tucked under models arms as they walked the runway.

AW12 trainers

AW13. More on them later

This wit and ‘year zero’ approach to all collections is what sets Mr. Simons apart. I also realise it is what makes him similar to another great designer, Miuccia Prada, and what she does for womenswear, he does for menswear. She was one of the first to know sport in fashion was going to be huge and did Prada Sport in the 90’s . He cut clothes slimly and rigourously and has now turned his aesthetic on his head. But he hasn’t, because ‘year zero’ designers; Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Raf, Nicholas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs,  always have something new to offer that you want as soon as you see it but you didn’t want it before. However, they still retain an aesthetic. For example, Miucci references herself. Crazy, huh?

This AW13 looks like something that will be referenced in years to come.

Finale song: Modern Love by David Bowie

Selected looks from the collection (which still hasn’t appeared on his website, c’mon):

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