Simons' presentation is a epic personal journey through emotion, memory and love.
An email went out to everyone prior to the Raf Simons show informing guests there would be no seating and no flash photography allowed. As far as showmanship goes that’s a pretty epic lead-up to a performance. Guests lined the narrow, tortuous runway marked with tape as the lights turned an alarming red and Raf’s boys began making their way around the labyrinth at the dim Espace Vendome like some sort of sect zombies, walking multiple times and infrequently to the haunting sound of screeching violins. “It’s about feelings I think everybody has, but trying to represent them in a way that can be challenging,” Raf told i-D after the show. “The representation of danger isn’t necessarily the word ‘danger’. It can be a rollercoaster. It can be excitement. But it can also be danger. It’s so much about memories but also about things I think we all experience,” he explained, referring to people’s everyday concerns in life. “That says red lights to me, because maybe it’s danger.”
While Simons worked with a somewhat blank canvas of slightly utilitarian garments that were overall distinctive to his aesthetic, it was in the application of personal photographs of his parents together next to ‘RS’ logos and cultish symbols that the collection found its character. “It’s very emotional, it’s very personal, it’s very much about memory,” he said. “It started with the love between my parents. There were pictures of the two of them together in a natural environment, which is where I come from in the end, by the sea. It starts from there and then me growing up and then the label and meeting people, among them, some of them, here.” Guerrino Santulliana wore a rose pink shirt with a small picture of Simons himself, which was taken the night he first met Olivier Rizzo and realised what he wanted to do in life. “It was very emotional for me, because I was not a fashion designer, but I already felt like that was what I needed to do,” Raf said.
As the model numbers increased on the runway and the music intensified, there was a sense of collective doom to the show, like some sort of weird sect with common goal. It didn’t feel angry but rather decidedly determined and defiant, like the models in their big trainers – some of which had soles that lit up when they touched the ground – had a purpose. “It became, in relation to the other position I have at Dior, more challenging at this house to search further and further and further, not only with the clothes but also how it can be communicated and how it can be a dialogue with the audience,” Raf said, explaining how he wanted to break with the routine of how people attend shows. “It’s challenging for me to juxtaposition that with Dior, which is very organised and structured. It’s a very different psychology and position for myself. That is a house so massively and historically huge that whether I’m there or not it’s always going to be there one way or another. I don’t think Dior would like me saying, ‘We’re not gonna have white lights and we’re not gonna seat people’,” Raf smiled. “So I think that freedom is important to me.”