raf simons brought factory records to chinatown for spring/summer 18
A subcultural dreamscape in an East Broadway shopping arcade.
Henri Fantin-Latour's painting "A Basket of Roses" has had quite a run since it was painted in 1890. The still life was reproduced by Peter Saville as the cover of New Order's second album, Power, Corruption & Lies, in 1983. World's Biggest New Order Fan and Everyone's Favorite Menswear Designer of All Time Raf Simons used the artwork as part of his iconic "Closer" collection 20 years later, most notably on fishtail military parkas that now fetch four figures. In 2013, Supreme printed the flowers onto Vans. And last night, Raf brought the painting back in key looks for his spring/summer 18 menswear collection.
The flowers, along with other Saville graphic masterworks, were part of the pastiched subcultural dreamscape that Raf presented in a Chinatown shopping arcade. Between the real steam of the city and the fashion steam pumped into the venue, it was a sticky evening that made the procession of umbrellas and all-weather gear that much more vital. "Back to Nature" by Fad Gadget blared through the mist: It's gonna rain all night, but we'll be all right.
Digital tickers on the walls displayed messages from 1982 film Bladerunner — and were recreated on brooches that would bewitch a nerdy child. The movie's cyberpunk costumes could also be seen in the cut of the clothing: slope-shouldered parkas and apocalyptic trenches. With the hardcore rubber boots and slouchy sweaters, Raf was exploring the ways we protect ourselves.
Simons appeared to be just as inspired by the New York melting pot as by Manchester and Futuristic L.A. The rain-friendly hat/scarf pieces worn by every model have a lot to do with the practical sunhats worn by elderly Chinese people in nearby Seward Park. Dark socks with pool slides too — which we've seen before — are a staple in the neighborhood. The venue made it impossible not to reflect on the complicated relationship between fashion, art, and commerce, and one of Manhattan's last remaining ethnic communities. Fuzhou immigrants buy their Gowow prepaid debit cards just a stone's throw from Jeffrey Stark's influential basement gallery and the new outpost of Tramps.
Season after season, Raf remixes history to create something so modern that it doesn't matter if you miss the references. The teenagers vaping at last night's show wearing creepers and ironic telephone cords as hairbands just think the clothes look cool. And they do. Exceptionally so.
Text Rory Satran
Photography courtesy Raf Simons