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Photography Willy Vanderperre, Styling Olivier Rizzo

Raf Simons’ final hurrah revisits some classic gay erotica

The designer’s swansong campaign for SS23 channels the work of Karlheinz Weinberger with homoerotic flashes of skin, padlocks, and popped collars

In Raf Simons’ last and final campaign, a janitor-type stares into the barrel of the camera, neck strewn in padlocks and chains, with a crooked smile etched across his face. Shot by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Olivier Rizzo – Simons’ longest-held collaborators – the campaign serves as a final hurrah for his eponymous label, which unexpectedly shuttered last month. “I lack the words to share how proud I am of all that we have achieved,” Simons said at the time. “Thank you all, for believing in our vision and for believing in me.” 

The first series of images from the SS23 campaign seem to channel the work of Karlheinz Weinberger whose homoerotic flashes of skin, popped collars, and slashed crop tops proliferated Der Kreis; an international gay porn magazine in the early 50s. Flies are left undone, high-slung shorts are frayed at the hem, and grubby tyre marks come been smeared across shrunken knitwear. The whole thing compounds the unkempt sexuality displayed at Simons’ Printworks swansong back in October, where droopy crotches on gamine playsuits were unzipped with an air of absolute nonchalance – even despite a 125bpm soundtrack pummelling through wall-to-wall speakers. 

The campaign also closes a unique chapter in Simons’ career-long kinship with Vanderperre, which kindled blood orange skies for AW20 and stirred barren wastelands for SS16. In the photographer’s own words, their creations have always been a “reflection of post-zeitgeist, past-present-urgency, and neo-nostalgia for the future”. Both Belgium natives, the collaborators first met within a group of friends on a terrace in Antwerp, and though they didn’t say a word to each other the whole night, they were intrigued, soon realising just how closely their horizons aligned. Click through the gallery above to see the rest of the campaign so far.