>> Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing in fashion. Look back with rose-tinted goggles at your peril as you fall deep into a pit of thinking that thoughts like, “Those were the good old days”, and you might miss what’s passing you by in the present. There’s a trick to looking back into the past in order to go somewhere new. And Raf Simons seems to nail that balance. At Dior, Simons looks to a distant and almost remote past to heave it into the present day. At Simon’s own namesake brand, his own memories – genuine, personal and heartfelt – are accessed, extracted and refined until he can eke out something that speaks to the here and the now. For my first Raf Simons show experience (I’ve never attended Paris menswear…), that memory happened to be a specific one. In Belgium, there is a tradition for 3rd or 4th year university students to “initiate” or in his words “baptise” the 1st years. In the USA, I believe they call it “hazing”, except in Belgium it’s less extreme. In Raf’s case, he was placed in a box and had plaster poured all over him so that he became a sculpture of sorts, having to chip himself free with a hammer and a chisel. He never got to be the “baptiser”. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. Even if it did mean he would get to don a lab coat, scribbled with messages that are then washed and passed on through the years.
And they’re the items that I absolutely couldn’t get enough of in the show. Every one was obviously unique. And as opposed to the faux scribbles, slogans and scrawlings that you might find on mass produced “personalised” items, these looked and felt real. Even if we didn’t have this tradition at university, it was easy enough to connect them to the leaver’s shirts that we all scribbled over when we left secondary school. Simons tapped into that feeling of relief, achievement and a hope for the an unknown future with this particular section. It was also hard not to think about another memory of Simons – his primary influences like Martin Margiela and his lab coated world. Or as we looked up from our standing positions onto the raised catwalk (standing is awesome when you have a clear upwards view), you thought of fashion shows of an other era, especially as we were transported to a far out suburb of Paris for the show. Going somewhere far to see something you really want to see. Without the standard white light that floods most fashion shows. Simons said it best: “The way things are visually travelling – it’s all very samey.” As in the fashion imagery we see – front-on, flash photography, stony gazes – can all look the same. It was about putting in a bit of effort to really SEE a show. And to see something in the show that we can all immerse ourselves into, despite the specific memory.