The Raf Simons fashion/rave party experience finally arrived in London on Thursday night. The designer postponed his show last month due to the national mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, and staged his spring 2023 show instead during Frieze, along with brands including Alexander McQueen and Roksanda.
More than 1,000 guests gathered at Printworks, the cult party venue in Canada Water, southeast London, where Simons conjured a Berghain-style moment.
Guests gathered in the vast, cavernous venue around long black bars and drank beer and cocktails out of paper cups. Just before the show began, those bars were transformed into one long runway. It wasn’t the first time that Simons’ show guests were forced to stand and look up at his creations. He staged similar shows in Florence, New York, and at a warehouse in Montreuil, in the east of Paris.
The designer’s obsession with mega-shoulders and big proportions appears to be over. Instead there were lots of clean lines, minimal tailored jackets and skirts paired with bright leggings in primary colors. A lineup of romper suits was made from fine-gauge knits, as light as lingerie, or breezy cotton.
Simons’ role as cocreative director at Prada is getting under his skin, and it’s clear that Miuccia Prada is influencing his aesthetic.
Fans, though, would still recognize this as a Raf Simons show, albeit a more stripped-down version. Models strode down the elevated bar-cum-catwalk in sleeveless coats in bright red or pale blue; classic double-breasted coats that Simons does every season; fishnet T-shirts, and cotton dresses and sleeveless tops with graffiti artwork, the fruit of a collaboration with the estate of the late Belgian painter Philippe Vandenberg.
Simons said in his liner notes that the artist’s work, albeit dark, always comes with a glimpse of hope, with phrases such as “Let’s drink the sea and dance.” The collaboration pieces will be cobranded when they hit the shop floor next year.
Simons’ new less-is-more approach, so different from his previous highly curated and sometimes overproduced shows, paid off. He’s now able to play to a new set of older, and more affluent, customers who are getting to know him from his Prada job, while still staying true to the loyal fans who’ve been following him since the early 2000s.