Raf Simons Says ‘No’ To Streetwear

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The designer focused on tailoring and “DIY couture” at his Spring 2019 menswear show in Paris on Wednesday.

“It feels good to be back,” admitted designer Raf Simons to journalists backstage after his men’s show Wednesday that marked a return to Paris after a two-season hiatus (Well, sort of Paris. It was actually in gentrified Brooklyn-esque Montreuil just outside Paris on the east side).

Few designers could command such a trek; Simons is one of them. While street, street, street seems to be flavor du jour, Simons actually took a different approach focusing on among other things, tailoring. “We need a new outline, a new shape and there are too many hoodies with prints out there. Something needs to shift," he attested.

Simons made that shift happen by creating a world that drew aesthetic and emotion from a collage of ideas. Starting with the space, one had the sense you were entering Simons' idea of the perfect 1980s club though according to show producer Alexandre de Betak, it was evidence of a “personal collage" from Simons. Still with laser beams, red glowing lights and mannequins partially dipped in silver metallic paint either hanging from the ceiling or gazing intently into massive mirrors – the commentary spoke volumes about good ol’ fashioned narcissism that only required a reflecting pool or mirror versus one that manifests today in a smartphone – it was hard to deny. Especially with a techno beat blaring pre-show.

That reference did come into play as Simons was conjuring up the specific late Punk slash early New Wave moment that was a bit less harsh than the safety pins and leather era. Instead, his punk had piercings on fine gage knit turtlenecks or grommets on brightly colored satin jackets that introduced Simons new tailoring with a shoulder-heavy oversize proportion. T-shirts and classic woven shirts bore photo prints taken from the 5 London punk scene posters that also decorated the room. Worn with pegged pants with wide cuffs and heavy black suede Herman Munster-style Adidas trainers and with Bela Lugosi Dead by Bauhaus playing as models helped cement that reference.

Distress and destruction also play into the collection as T-shirts, classic men’s shirts and turtleneck sweaters, shown mainly in a Lurex-knit, were upended in what he referred to as “do it yourself meets couture." He explained the methodology that by removing one sleeve from a T-shirt or top, the armhole becomes the hole for the head thus throwing off the classic style by leaving an extra sleeve to dangle. It would explain the various holes and additional necklines that ended up willy-nilly on some of the knits for example.

Outwear offered some interesting options, such as men’s topper coats that featured brightly colored silk scarves — a nod to Saint Laurent — woven through slats on the placket and back shoulder or coats that looked as if the main wool body was torn away to leave only a satin liner and remnants of a wool sleeve.

Simons admitted to flashing back to show a series of mesh tank tops and “carry-alls" complete with beer can, that were based on the plastic mesh that binds together a classic Six-pack. Perhaps the misstep of the evening considering the marine health movement.

Simons drove home the club feel by democratizing the show with a standing room only seating set up with guests like Naomi Campbell and her posse as well as rapper A$AP Rocky holding their own VIP rooms within the squares of the runways. A$AP Rocky, in town to promote his new album as well as pay homage said pre-show he was a “major Raf fan." He was gladly showing off a new big-time bling necklace that spelled A$AP with Tyler the Creator, Pharrell and Jacob the Jeweler. Luckily, he wasn’t wearing a hoodie.

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