Raf Simons, only days after showing his collaborative collection with Miuccia Prada in Milan, presented his much-anticipated eponymous collection in Paris. Whilst the designer is no stranger to favouring androgyny, having previously explored fluid silhouettes, Simons presented a gender-blurring collection through the adoption of a singular prominent silhouette yesterday.
Although notable, this move was perhaps not as surprising as it once would have been. Fashion-goers and the general public have been well-versed in androgyny in fashion for many years now, and genderless dressing has recently become a part of the mainstream thanks to celebrities such as Jaden Smith and Harry Styles sporting skirts in everyday wear and on the cover of Vogue respectively. However, having an entire collection dedicated to this notion and silhouette still resonated as a conscious choice from the designer, providing a reminder of the work still to be done in eradicating established gender-norms in both fashion and wider culture.
The overwhelming effect of the collection was uniformity. With genderless dressing presented through one chosen silhouette, a sense of conformity through consistency was also, paradoxically, implied. Whilst breaking one set of conventions (gender dress norms), Simons has unwittingly fallen into another (uniformity). However, the collection undoubtedly presented different types of uniformity, despite the use of a template silhouette.
One of these ‘uniforms’ is work wear: the collection featured lots of sloped, boxy tailoring and black suit-like skirts. Simons’ trademark features of an elongated torso, long arms and oversized cuffs lent themselves to this ‘uniform’ well, with striped button-down shirts, blazers, A-line dresses and semi-pleated skirts all appearing in the lineup. But the Belgian-born designer also updated these conventional, business-inspired pieces by fusing them with a streetwear style construction, graphic detailing and, as mentioned, his signature oversized fit.
Other interpretations of Simons’ SS22 uniforms include a clinical sensibility: the collection of A-line garments worked to evoke hospital gowns, especially when appearing en masse and in formation. Some even looked ceremonial, religious; a notion only intensified by the skeletal hands that cuffed the models’ upper arms. Aside from signalling the upcoming spooky season, these were carried through from his previous collections. Speaking about them specifically, Simons has adopted them as a brand symbol, suggesting that they are a core Simons emblem “like Martin has the Tabi boot.” In the context of his gender boundary-breaking, they seem to cling on to the models as if to assert the brand: yes, this is genderless dressing, but it is still Raf Simons’ version of genderless dressing.
Traces of Prada’s rigid tailoring and character were also evident in the collection, which perhaps galvanised his idea of uniformity. “I think it looks more like a uniform on a boy, and more couture on a girl,” Simons said of his new silhouette. “It’s a very pure, timeless shape”. Hinting to the likelihood of genderless dressing as dominating future collections with this sentiment, Simons’ SS22 has shown that he continues to create compelling work that challenges the norm.
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