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Raf Simons AW15 Mens Red Neck Tie Scribble Print Waistcoat
Raf Simons AW15Photography Lea Colombo

Raf Simons AW15

Deep in the Paris suburbs, Simons reminds a new generation that fashion shouldn’t be formulaic

TextSusie LauPhotographyLea Colombo

Initial reaction:

Last season, Raf Simons broke the show mould and made his audience stand up and watch his models go around and around in a continual memory warp, lit up by green and red. For AW15, far out in the surburbs of Paris, we stood once more alongside a never-ending raised catwalk and saw a continuation of Simons tapping into memory. For him, the format harked back to the shows of yesteryear. “I’m thinking of my own memories but also memories of influences like Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang – they’re reasons why I wanted to become a fashion designer,” he recalled. “It’s memories of those early days when things were elevated or in difficult venues or held in bad weather. Maybe I feel there’s a systematic behaviour in shows that the younger generation may be conditioned too. I think that it’s up to somebody like me, who has been doing this for twenty years, to show that it’s about what you put up there and not about a formula.” That formula has well and truly been broken. And whilst Simons approaches such a significant anniversary for his own brand, it’s clear why an age can’t be put on his fanbase. As a designer, Simons never forgets that feeling of yearning in formative years; he understands what subsequent generations lack. And he shows them the light. Or in this case, a dim purple-hazed light.

A rite of passage: 

Simons referenced a Belgian rite of passage, where a third or fourth year university student would welcome (or in the designer’s own words “baptise”) the first years by making them do dares or tasks whilst donning a lab coat, which would become scribbled with messages written throughout the ritual. The students are then washed and passed on to the next year of “baptisers”. “In my case, because I went to an applied arts school, we were put into a box and had plaster poured all over us so that we were frozen into a sculpture,” he said backstage. “We had to use a hammer to chip the plaster off ourselves! I got baptised but I didn’t do the baptising!” Perhaps leading a house like Dior has given Simons a broader perspective on his own brand – his personal past is returning in different fragments, but this isn’t a simple case of re-hashing the archives. In fact, the show’s invitation read: “To the archives, no longer relevant.” Simons looked at his own archives, took in the memory but decided they weren’t to be repeated. It’s this sort of random memory access that makes his recent oeuvre so especially touching.

In my gang: 

At the end of the show, the models – sprinkled with a few of Simons’ favourite girls, who styled themselves with pieces from the collection – walked out in various groups. A trio of patent jackets led the charge, followed by a gang of geometric elongated waistcoats worn with gently flared trousers, led by one of the lab-coated students years. A group of boys in tightly cropped hole-filled sweaters then skuttled past. Simons was remembering that “baptism” university day, and the way that students might then go through different style phases. He spontaneously asked the models to walk out in this way – a call for everyone to follow their own different paths.