In some ways, Raf Simons AW22 is a departure from the norm: shown outside of fashion week scheduling, excluding his usual youthful angst and heading down an entirely more elegant path. However – in other ways, it wasn’t: Raf’s signature dark design motifs and symbols were back in full force, with a renewed emphasis on detail. It’s as if the Raf kids are growing up, and he’s right there outfitting them.
The venue choice reflected this change in tone: departing from the industrial concrete space of his SS22 show, Simons staged this presentation in a stately interior with all the trimmings of aristocracy: red velvet drapes, artily-slung armchairs and glass chandeliers. But all that glitters is not gold – the scene had a distinctly eerie feel to it; whether that was from the noticeably empty space or the spaced out soundtrack.
The collection itself was bold – bright reds sat amongst darker hues, and Simons’ signature black boxy tailoring was of course included. However, new inclusions came in the form of elegant drape work on pleated trousers, demure bomber jackets and silk trails protruding from backpacks. We saw form-fitting silhouettes and innovative fabric use, which for this season included everything from vinyl to nylon and a sort of fuzzy mohair.
Perhaps the major take away from this collection though, was the abundance of ‘hat-hoods’ presented last night. Starting as a cap and transforming into a cape of sorts, these creations had the effect of being outerwear substitutes, comfort blankets, and an all-round fashion moment in one. Their fluid silhouettes also served to emphasise the contrast in the garments below – loose and tight, draped and fitted. Others are shaped like a police officer’s hat, or stretched to cover the models’ faces. In the bag department, Raf’s time at Prada is evident, as he produced oversized and satin iterations within the collection.
The collection was genderless, and focused more on the fluidity of garments than the binaries that they would probably end up in when going into commercial production. When you’re at Raf’s level, this makes sense – why momentarily fill a room with press when it makes more of an impact to leave it empty?
Things got darker with latex prairie dresses, accompanied by cloaks – a look which encapsulated Raf’s tendency to blend sweet with sensual, light with dark. Accessories followed suit: a pair of embracing skeletons hung in silver as an earring, and a skeletal hand-turned bangle gripped models’ wrists. Restraint and excess played out on the catwalk.
With Raf, it’s clear that silence speaks louder than words: he operates in aesthetic languages with a clarity that even the most gifted writers would be lucky to possess, rarely philosophising on his work and leaving much up to interpretation.
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