Friday, 10 February 2012


Issue 2 of the brilliant DUST magazine is out now. Although the first issue was slightly more powerful, probably by virtue of being the first, the second is just as hard-edged and provoking, with an equally strong focus on youth subculture. It's still beautifully printed on matte paper, and although it's not cheap at £15 it's the kind of magazine you will keep forever, because it's full of amazing photography. There's also an interesting interview with Peter de Potter, the Belgian artist who has collaborated with Raf Simons on a lot of prints/graphics.

Related: DUST magazine, issue 1

You can buy Dust online here .

Saturday, 4 February 2012


Raf Simons autumn/winter 2012 show (Paris, 22 Jan 2012) and showroom (Paris, 25 Jan 2012).

I seem to have a block on writing at the moment (nothing to do with the show, which was as brilliant as ever), so I will share my thoughts in note form. If you don't want to read anything at all, scroll down for the photos I took in the showroom.

In a season when most of the men's collections were very buttoned-up and tailored, with a certain heaviness about them, and a preponderance of suits, Raf's show felt like a breath of fresh air, with its lightness and fluid shapes. There was also casualwear on the runway, when several designers showed exclusively formal collections.

There was tailoring, but it was shown with shorts, maintaining the lightness, and youthful edge. By 'light' I don't so much mean physically light, but rather the opposite of the very 'suited and booted,' oppressive and staid nature of several other collections this season.

Although it was a winter collection, every look was shown with shorts, something Raf did to make a stronger (visual) statement; in the age of Twitter, and so on, the importance of high-impact looks should not be underestimated.

The shorts also said something about the madness of the fashion calendar (winter clothes go on sale when it's still summer) and the increasingly globalised nature of fashion. Of course in the showroom there were trousers, because most stores won't buy shorts from winter collections. That said, there were very few conventional suits in the showroom, which I thought was significant because suits were such a big story almost everywhere else.

The streetwear-couture fusion of the slim-cut, slightly drop-crotch 'skater' shorts, beautifully crafted from suiting fabric, continued with both the hats (part couture cloche, bringing to mind Balenciaga's riding hats, part face-obscuring baseball cap) and the tailored jackets, some of which had blown-up streetwear proportions, but retained traditional details, like double-breasted construction and broad peak lapels.

Back to the formal/casual thing again, every look was shown with a tie. I think this collection was a fascinating exploration of contemporary/youthful ways to interpret tailoring and formalwear, which in many ways are the core values of menswear, but tend to be shown by designers in a fairly safe, predictable ways.

There were no formal shoes: every look was shown with running-style sneakers, which looked a bit like the pair Raf created in collaboration with Asics a few years ago. In the showroom there were just two pairs of classic formal shoes, and no other styles of sneaker except for the runway ones. Again, I thought this was a strong statement (although fans of Raf's existing sneaker styles with be disappointed next season).

The sneakers were styled with pulled-up socks. I love the way that Raf dabbles in a cutting-edge take on the Belgian backpacker / dorky European tourist look (his SS08 collection was the apex of this).

Several looks featured oversized shirts worn partly unbuttoned, layered over regular-size shirts and ties, some in blousy floral prints, a first for Raf. These were offset against the 'street' styling, and the skinny shorts which they were tucked into, balancing the silhouette.

The dégradé / ombre prints were inspired by Rothko.

Ed Ruscha's 'Sea of Desire' series of paintings inspired some of the prints in the 1995 collection (see showroom images below). In the 1995 collection, Raf also did a version of the rave smiley with the seafaring symbol of an anchor added. There were nautical motifs in his Jil Sander collection too, leading me to wonder (rather inevitably) if it was about being 'all at sea' RE: Dior.

Another art reference the collection brought to mind was Francesca Woodman's 'Self-Portrait at thirteen' (1972):

Which brings us to THE HAIR, both worn by the models in the form of clip-in extensions, and adorning some of the garments. The models' hair was done by Guido Palau, who was responsible for the dramatic styles in Raf's SS00 show, as well as in the 'Isolated Heroes' series of photographs, which Simons did in collaboration with David Sims.

It was interesting that the models' faces were generally obscured, either by curtains of hair or by the hats. I wondered if this was a tribute to Martin Margiela (the designer who first got Raf interested in fashion), who remained anonymous himself and often covered his models' faces or eyes. When the brightly coloured hair was attached to the back of jackets and sweaters, giving a sort of My Little Pony on drugs effect, this was perhaps a reference to Margiela's FW07 collection, where there was a similar technique.

As the hacking group Anonymous continues to make headlines, and concern rises about online privacy, Facebook's face recognition technology and so on, the models' covered faces were strangely topical. The long, brightly-coloured fringes also made me think of manga cartoon characters.

The invite showed three youths, with their faces covered by hair dyed in candy colours. Oddly, it brought to mind pastel-haired Nicki Minaj, who happened to be on the soundtrack at Raf's FW11 show. The hair applique on the clothes was real human hair which had been coloured. It was not feathers, as Suzy Menkes said in her review. (Funny that she missed this, sitting front row..)

The coat with the springbok skin on the back was interesting. Raf's collections often explore modern notions of masculinity; there is something quite primal and almost macho about wearing an animal skin on your back, but this one was dyed in a fluorescent acid hue, for the contemporary urban warrior, or something like that.

Military and school uniform references often feature in Simons' work (Raf's father was in the army, and the designer attended a strict Catholic school), with this collection being no exception. The slightly too-big blazers, worn by slightly knock-kneed models with caps, shorts, and pulled-up socks had schoolboy written all over them, while the tailored outerwear was based around the officers' coat.

The collection was called RUN, FALL, RUN. I could talk about interpretations of that all day long, but I think I've said quite enough for one post.

Dyed springbok skin and real human hair:

Yannick Abrath, Raf's model of the moment:

I LOVE these pieces so much, especially the all black one which fades from light to dark so subtly you don't notice at first glance:

Obsessed with this piece (from the 1995 collection), with its hair-trimmed hood:

The nautical smiley:

LOVE a T-shirt in sweater material:

White shirt perfection. This season the 'R' emblem has been moved down from the chest to the height where rather old school types sometimes have their bespoke shirts monogrammed:

The jewellery / accessories collection is back this season (made in collaboration with Atelier 11), with some archive designs making a reappearance:

The 1995 collection (which is the collection inspired by Raf's archives and not shown on the runway):

gRAFfiti print?

Ed Ruscha's 'Sea of Desire' (1983)

And the canvas tote bags are back! I'm so excited for next season.What can I say, another season, another perfect collection.