Raf Simons AW21 is a tribute to the things the designer loves most
Kraftwerk, oversized knits, effortless tailoring… This is one for the die-hard Raf heads out there.
Images courtesy of Raf Simons
If Raf Simons loves anything, it’s an Easter egg hunt. In fact, clocking the dense network of references to film, music, art and, often, his own oeuvre can feel like an incredibly erudite game of bingo. Was this season’s crimson-haired cast member, for example, meant to throw us back the designer’s AW18 ode to Christiane F.? And were the blazer sleeves bunched up over bright knit opera gloves a knowing nod to his Prada menswear debut? We may not have the answers from the horse’s mouth, but guessing is all part of the game. And what makes it so much fun is that all these allusions -- eclectic, and at times esoteric, as they may be -- aren’t the product of a clinical research process; rather, they’re reflections of Raf’s deepest passions, together forming a constellation resembling the man himself.
Raf’s AW21 collection, then, is a bumper edition of this game. “The collection is about things I love — things I have always loved, that are always there in every collection,” Raf wrote in a quote issued post-show, “in the processes behind it, and the clothes.”
This season, Raf’s autobiography spoke through the set -- a coal mine complex turned cultural centre in the Flemish town of Genk, where the designer studied industrial design before his eye drifted to fashion -- and in its soundtrack, "Radioactivity" ("Radioaktivität") by Kraftwerk. “Their music shaped me, and my work,” Raf notes -- as we’re sure you’ll remember, Raf even paid direct homage to the German electronic music pioneers in his AW98 collection, titled, you guessed it, Radioactivity.
It’s in the clothes, though, that the spirit of revisiting and reimagining the codes of the house that Raf built came through most forcefully. In a season when so many designers are calling for us to shed the voluminous, comfy clothes we’ve all been bundled up in this past year, and wriggle into our crop tops and cobweb dresses, Raf has chosen to swim against the tide of trends. Instead, he’s gone bigger and better than ever. “Oversize is part of our make-up,” Raf says, and when you look at the hulking quilted jackets, loose-threaded vests and dress-length cable knit sweaters -- so generously proportioned that they were styled over padded coats -- you know he damn well means it.
This wasn’t, however, a simple exercise in supersizing. Abstract graphic knits clashed with highlighter-hued, knife-sharp tailoring, counterposing razzmatazz youthfulness with severity and poise. It was, as Raf puts it, “a mix of different ideas: sophistication, maturity, luxuriousness with ease, youth, utility and punk. About how ideas that are unconnected can come together and find a synergy, a calm.” If there’s anything we need right about now, it’s that.