Unless all of the fashion-fascinated money guys, luxury ceo’s, retailers and well-heeled women who claim to love fashion are crazy, Raf Simons is going to be just fine. Because he is, quite simply, one of the world’s very best designers. He creates some of the most innovative, provocative and chic clothes out there. And, oh yes, did we mention wearable? If his aesthetic can’t thrive in the industry’s current reality, then fashion has become, like U.S. politics, way too polarized — the luxury giants dominant at one end, feisty fast (and cheap) fashion at the other, with serious alternative voices struggling to be allowed to stand for something nobler than brand-building.
On Saturday afternoon, Simons closed his Jil Sander chapter (as the house’s founder prepares for her return) with a tour de force, one that proved how captivating calm clothes can be. Arriving at the white space that last season transformed so magically into a colorful rock garden, audience members found the set anchored by six large square pillars, white on the bottom and acrylic on top, where they were filled with dense arrangements of 65 flower varieties — orchids, roses, tulips — done by Mark Colle of Antwerp. One could not miss the contrast of their romantic, even retro, abundance with the spare, minimalist casings.
While the bouquets definitely heralded pretty (and the notion of modernity informed by the past), their preserved look might have signaled a mournful collection. Not at all. Rather, Simons made his final Sander statement one of positive beauty, gentle and refined. He opened with double-faced clutch coats (literally — the girls grasped the fabric closed) — pale pink and dove gray, tobacco and bright pink — with the unmistakable air of late-Fifties couture. He then went into a veritable dissertation on innovating the lingerie reference. Though intricately constructed, dresses, many in powdery makeup shades, combined tones and textures with visual ease. (The knits amazed.) Even substantial folds of PVC looked lovely rather than aggressive. The elegance continued at night with bare-shoulder beauties, both dresses and pants.
As for the couture aura, Simons has worked such inspiration for several seasons. Intentionally or not, he signed off from Sander with the message that he could pull off not only elegant eveningwear but haute with the currency to work by day.
And on the way out, he didn’t do Jil Sander (the person) any favors.