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1.22.2018

Raf Simons

Whether it's the Statue of Liberty beckoning over the curve in the horizon as your steamer approaches from the east, or a frantic cluster of handwritten "Have you been detained ?" posters waiting outside immigration as the automatic doors of JFK whoosh blessedly closed behind you, every outsider's first arrival in New York is as different as it is meaningful. For Raf Simons, a designer who is no less vaunted in fashion than he is sometimes ambivalent about it as an art form -i.e., deeply- that rule applies. Here was the transposition of his own 22-year-old brand from Europe to the new continent. What we got was oversize satin-sheen topcoats and almost aggressively mundane boxy check jackets worn atop oversize pants with luxurious breaks at the ankle, bottomed by rope-trimmed chisel-toe shoes. The slightness of the models and the bigness of these pieces contributed to what Raf Simons said he'd aimed to muster, a sense of children adopting their parents' uniform. Sometimes the boys wore nothing but maître d's waistcoats with their baggies, or attenuatedly utilitarian long-yoked work shirts. They almost always wore heaped beading at the neck. Shiningly recognizable was the typographical design of Milton Glaser, transposed into rough-knit I ❤ NY sashes and sweaters. Less so were the Raf Simons Youth Project tees, the service-industry Thank You (writ thrice) above Have a Nice Day graphics, and the seemingly random insertion of words including blow and forest in double-edged collegiate fonts onto split-neck sweats. Absolutely the standout detail -and gratifyingly cheap and easy to replicate at home- was the duct tape cinching at the waist of outerwear. Raf Simons' rationale for all this was tangled but ultimately coherent. As he said : "I wanted to approach it from the combination of a mind-set of someone who comes to New York in the beginning, a kid let's say. When you are a young kid you end up in the places that are very touristy, that confront you with all these things, the Statue of Liberty, the I ❤... I wanted to go back to how I experienced New York in the beginning and combine it with how I experience it now. So this fresh young direction to the city and everything it stands for -and what is happening now". The rise of Donald Trump after his personal move was arranged by Calvin Klein had changed everything, he added, and moved his process back to the DIY subversion of British punk under Margaret Thatcher. Had his perception of New York changed since its Trumpification ? Raf Simons shook his head : "I can only see this city as a city that has incredible history, incredible inspiration, and incredible people... ask me do I think that you should stand up against what is happening in this country, then I say yes. Even in writing, I do not think people should be fearful -we should be more fearless- and not behave like everybody is expecting you to behave". No fear in the new city that never sleeps.

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