In every fashion season, one finds plenty of appealing clothes. (We’re in positive mode here; it’s not pertinent that every season has its dogs as well.) At some point in the show schedule, not necessarily the end, many among that appealing subset start to blur, some merely hazy, some to the point of interchangeability. Then there are the moments of real fashion when your eyes widen, transfixed by images impossible to go fuzzy three shows, or three cities, later.
On Saturday Raf Simons offered one such moment at Jil Sander, a perfect fusion of high chic and high-mindedness. Before his show Simons said that after years at the house he finally feels comfortable giving his own aesthetic equal weight with that inherited from the house founder. In this case he applied his zeal for midcentury modernism, which he called “the highest form that survived and that you always see coming back in contemporary creative outings.”
With its raised white walkways and pools of colored stones, the set cribbed from the suburban modernist house in Jacques Tati’s quirky comedy “Mon Oncle.” The clothes played on the same architecture, without the mockery but with elements of street culture and of the couture with which Simons has been so taken of late. Fusing the two: street-savvy beanies veiled à la Fifties cocktail chapeaux.
Simons started with a Sander standard, the white shirt, and worked the daylights out of it, often with tense sensuality delivered via contrasts of traditional shirting and sheer fabrics. These came in endless shirt and dress takes, referencing variously the austere uniform sector (his particular fascination, women who treat other women at resort spas) and, with one of his marriage dresses, the post-New Look Fifties. Otherwise, a large-scale pink paisley added spunk; gingham pants and knits, both in lean and thicker versions — the latter with riffs on Picasso ceramics sanctioned by the artist’s family trust — sportif; and sleek cocktail dresses, an uberelegance that sadly, feels retro these days. Some of these got a pair of jeweled brooches at the waist, in front or back.
Every move Simons made, every cut, every seam, every combination, he put forth with obvious deliberation. In that sense, though often sporty, there’s nothing casual about these clothes. The designer worked with economy of flourish but never of impact, and the collection dripped with chic and a clear sense of the modernity he had set out to capture.