All Shadows and Deliverance
By Timothy Hagy
PARIS, January 29 - In the shadowy darkness of a cold January night, Raf Simons
delivered one the finest shows of Paris men's week. His label will celebrate
the10-year mark with a retrospective in Florence next June, sponsored by Pitti
Uomo, but it's really during the last three years that the avant-garde Belgian
designer has come into fashion's limelight. He has his finger on the pulse
of a rapidly changing world: foreseeing 9/11 two months in advance, and connecting
with the accelerating cadence of disenfranchised youth worldwide.
By Saturday night, I had just about had it. After a day full of lackluster
men's shows, featuring designers with absolutely nothing to say, and conglomerates
with little of interest to merchandize, I went to the Simons' show with hope.
And what I found there was a sort of redemption.
The concrete floor in the 70s-era Porte de la Villette structure was strewn
with 50 TV monitors in an arrangement that was itself contemporary art. The
moment the first model hit the runway, at about 10:40 p.m., it was clear that
Simons had a lot to communicate. What we saw - oversized ribbed collars that
wound around a leather jacket, rubber scuba-pants molded to the thighs, leotards
with half-moon cutouts on the back of the knee, a bomber puffed up like a life
preserver, over-sized high-top trousers wound with a macramé of leather
belts (crotches dropping erotically with button down flies) - said a lot about
the future. These were clothes for the kids of today, and the men of tomorrow.
Looking about that room, filled to the brim with off-duty models, clumps of
pale-faced Teutonic boys, men of every color in the rainbow, editors speaking
in a babble of lingual cacophony, you could see that the theme struck a common
From a fashion standpoint, the immaculate tailoring of thin Spencer-like jackets
sheered at the waist, shirts affixed with a discreet silver logo, an amazing
layered suit combination trailed by split skirt-like tails, lapels with a strange
vertical appendage, all of it was striking. Even a lacquered trench coat had
been meticulously tweaked until it floated ethereally when put into motion.
The silhouette at times looked pseudo ecclesiastical - capes, habits, a whiff
If there was a somber darkness to the collection, more or less mimicked by
the gargoyles that framed the invitation, then so be it. This is an age when
very few lights brighten the horizon. The monastic illusions and droning soundtrack
that opened the show gave reference to the Middle Ages - that period when empires
dissolved, and the dark mists of anarchy spread like poisonous vapors.