Welcome to New York, Raf.
The Belgian designer, indisputably the major draw of New York Fashion Week: Men’s, honored his new home with a collection that celebrated the city itself.
The city celebrated him right back. International press, top retailers, other designers and celebrities all turned out to welcome Simons, who landed here as the new creative director for Calvin Klein, an eagerly anticipated collection he will unveil in less than two weeks.
But on Wednesday night, it was all about the Raf Simons collection. And peers including Joseph Altuzarra, Narciso Rodriguez, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough and Laurence Chandler turned out to see a finely tailored collection heavy on luxurious outerwear and oversize blazers as well as key sportswear pieces all styled with strips of duct tape emblazoned with sayings such as “I Love You,” inspired by the famous “I Love New York” T-shirts.
“I see this as a city with incredible energy, incredible inspiration, incredible people,” he said. “I always pick up [inspiration] from where I live and there is an incredible freedom in the street here.”
Although the collection showcased a new direction in terms of clean tailoring, there were recognizable references from the past, such as beefy arm warmers reminiscent of varsity sweaters along with distressed detailing in other knit pieces.
Simons also showed a juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity with an evening vest cinched at the waist with yellow tape accessorized with a woman’s beaded necklace.
Another nod to American culture was Simons’ use of workwear uniform references such as an oversize teal or chocolate-brown extralong utility shirt with matching pants.
The collection also spoke to the contrast of naivety and sophistication, interpreted by Simons through the use of refined fabrics such as black silk that contrasted with the duct tape that he used as a platform to speak to the young generation with messages such as Walk With Me and RSVP Youth Movement.
“The label is 22 years old now and is still seen as inspiration to the youth,” he said post-show at the Gagosian Gallery, surrounded by a gaggle of reporters with iPhones.
Young people today have an energy that they need to activate, he continued, adding that youth must not be afraid to speak out. It’s important to behave fearlessly, he said, not only in the political field, but also in fashion, art and writing. “If you want to have a voice, you can’t walk around it. If you have a voice, use it.”