The Style Title Raf Simons FW2001 review

Showback: Raf Simons FW 2001 Was The Show That Foretold 7/11

In 2018, street wear website HighSnobiety reported a Grailed user offering the staggering $47,000 for a rare Raf Simons piece, the famous “Riot Riot Riot Camo Bomber” from Raf Simons’ Fall/Winter 2001 collection. Considered as one of the most influential shows of the Belgian designer and trendsetter, the collection featured some of the most iconic designs of all time admired by fans and celebrities such as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian amongst many. The latter was even spotted flaunting the much-revered bomber on the street as part of her sexy-meets -cool street style.

Make no mistake the bomber in question was no random choice. From creating his own eponymous label to becoming a wild successful trendsetter, Raf Simons has been cultivating a devoted cult following that follows his every move-and purchases his designs. With a resume that counts creative direction stints at Dior and Jil Sander as well as a most recent, much-anticipated collaboration with Miuccia Prada, the Belgian designer seems he has done it all: streetwear innovation, progressive tailoring, sneaker design-you name it it’s there. Above all though, Simons has created a unique mental landscape of images, sounds, and cultural references that is entirely and distinctively his own. No surprise that art director Peter Saville, the well-known designer of iconic album covers (think Peter Gabriel, Pulp, New Order, Roxy Music) addressed him as “one of the great pioneers of convergence, transporting the art of sub-cultures into contemporary fashion.” In short,  the very future of cool.

Inside this subversive eloquent universe of references, there are shows-cultural milestones that stand out. One of them is the aforementioned iconic Fall Winter 2001 one. It was Simons’s first collection after a much-needed one-year sabbatical which he uses to expand his creative horizons past fashion exploring creative design and art. Then, the show happened. Described as “terrorist chic” by The Guardian fashion editor Charlie Porter, the collection was Simons take on street subcultures’ codes elevated into something fresh and new.

Set in a dark warehouse full of scaffolding, strobe lights, an eerie atmosphere of fog, and dystopic industrial sounds, the show became an instant classic and a major aesthetic influence. This was a collection from the depths of youth counter cultures galvanized into a consistent Simons’ universe of parkas, military-style jackets and bombers wore in layers, loose sweaters, and hoodies worn with balaclavas. Decorated with Marxist slogans, Manic Street Preachers photos, and cult film imagery, the collection was an iconography of youth rioting against the old establishment via the eyes of a unique fashion creator.

Imagine the antithesis with the high-fashion audience, their surprise being part of the contradiction set in Simons’ mind. Punk, mod, and garage influencers may have their place in today’s fashion and major street style brands, but for 2001 it was an aggressive new take on where fashion should be looking for evolution: counter cultures. From Mani Street Preachers’ images to Christiane F film stills, the collection’s iconography was of a solid, personal universe that distilled the freshest and newest of fashion experiments of the time: those of the street, in a time where streetwear was slowly entering the high fashion world. “At the flea market in Vienna, I saw youngsters from the Ukraine or Romania, who simply lay layer by layer and thus create their own volumes because of the cold,” he told the Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung at the time.

The influence of this over layered, radical, ‘terrorist chic’ was profound to the audience-and to show critics later on. Simons’ styling evoked the idea of threat expressed through dress, especially what western eyes of the time would perceive as such. Balaclavas and keffiyehs (traditional Arab headdresses) played out the audience’s ideas of unfamiliarity as a threat. It was the clothes’ volumes, the dark colors, the covered faces and the styling that referred to an intimidating world outside the western perception of safety-it was a youth riot against old establishment conventions. What else to call this collection of iconoclasts but “Riot Riot Riot”?

It was a strange, almost prophetic timing. Raf Simons’s radical take on youth culture, echoing the rise of terrorist attacks throughout the world at the time, was destined to anticipate and foretell the biggest of all, the September 11 attacks, less than two years after the iconic show. This series of coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda against the United States marked a radical shift to almost all western world; it was the beginning of the end for the capitalistic euphoria and a strong cultural shake, with consequences that last till today. In his own world, Simons has been what great artists of all times were; a prophet of his own time.

‘Imagine The Future’-The 35th Hyeres Festival Promotes Creativity in a Time of Crisis

We already know this is a fashion season with many changes-and the Hyeres International Festival of Fashion and Photography was no exception.  Its new corona-affected version, took place at the Villa Noailles, as usual, but with several members of the jury not physically attending it. Nonetheless, with the help of Zoom, both the president of the fashion jury Jonathan Anderson and the president of the photography jury Paolo Roversi as well as Tim Blanks, model Kaia Gerber, Tyler Mitchell were able to exchange insights on artistic freedom, fashion creativity-and vote for the winners.

Did all that influence the perspective of the jury? Unavoidably. This 35th edition of the Hyères Festival was indeed significant in many ways. It showcased the importance of digital presentation over physical events and questioned the very idea of creativity in a time of crisis. The work of the competing designers focused on hard questions and offered solutions based on traditional craftsmanship, personal experiences, and no-limits experimentation.

“What I thought was so amazing was that all the designers are incredibly honest. And the authenticity level in each designer’s work is there—and it’s in them. I quite like that it’s not a total defined thing; it’s more about experimentation. We sometimes in this industry like things to be overnight successes. We want designers to immediately start a business, and we want what’s next. What’s really nice here is that each individual holds his own court, and at the same time, they have ideas that they are willing to experiment with. I think that we should allow that. It shouldn’t be like we want you to start a business tomorrow. I think it should be an experimental moment” , president of the jury J. Anderson told Vogue.

Perhaps nothing showcased this shift in values better than Tom Van der Borght, winner of the Hyeres First Award. The 42-year-old impressed with a menswear collection of intricate, colorful garments blurred the lines between fashion and performance art. Using diverse materials such as ropes, plastic cable ties, and Swarovski crystals he presented a very personal yet very modern new version of haute couture based on craftsmanship. His win told us exactly what we seemed to forget:  the idea of the fashion designer focused on a persistent seek for experimentation only to illustrate a very personal point of view. In his view, there is nothing more modern than being unique.

Uniqueness perhaps is the message from Hyeres and the one that could save this season. The industry needs to remember it’s not youth per se that will save the world, is talent, experimentation, and perseverance.  A clear point of view- and a dream, this is the luxury of the future. “We need to find a new definition of luxury. We are so used in classic luxury materials such as gold or leather –but I love using materials others don’t find interesting.”  Tom Van der Borght told AFP. And we couldn’t agree more.

Paris Fashion Week Offered Us Escapism. To All Different Directions.

This was undoubtedly a unique Paris Fashion Week. In the new post COVID- reality, designers chose to showcase their work in a mixture of physical and digital formats that included socially-distanced shows, show-in-a-box marvels, and digital presentations. In the noticeably quieter Paris streets, those fashionistas and influencers that have made it to the Paris capital were hosting their own style parade. Yet the true fashion drama was once more unfolding inside the shows’ closed doors. Creating a response to the global health crisis seemed to be in the show notes of almost every designer-their ‘concepts’ delved into the idea of overcoming the pandemic wiser and with a new wardrobe at hand.

Fashion has been attributed to an almost mythical escapism ability since forever; the medium to overcome every hard reality through imagination. In the past few seasons, designers’ collections reacted to the political upheavals and uncertainty created by environmental issues and protests of unrepresented minorities. Their runways showed their frustration and staged their protests. The belief that the fantastical experience of fashion can offer the wearer joy and provide an escape to colorful utopias was very much part of the equation. Then,  the pandemic stroke.

Fashion is a reflection of our times. The idea that vibrant escapism will always be a thing when things get darker and gloomier started to radically shift. In post-apocalyptic times, some designers are making references to an unsettling, harsh future lingering; a labyrinth from it there may be no escape visible. The SS21 Digital Paris Fashion Week season was an amalgam of attitudes towards a new reality that sometimes leaves us hopeless and angry. Escapism from the world health crisis took many forms, from going at the disco to dreaming awake.

Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior understood the previous codes may not be applicable now. At least, in the show notes; she evoked poetry and imagination as an escapism method that always works. The execution didn’t offer a radical shift from what Dior has been morphed under her creative direction: a combination of loose trousers, structured bar jackets, turbans, and a feminist essence that didn’t seem to translate well in actual design. We need poetry to escape. Instead, Dior offered well-crafted pajamas. It didn’t go well.

Olivier Rousteing decided he’d better react as if the pandemic had not taken place at all. The show had one piece of music playing on a loop – ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd while the Balmain army strutted in typical overly exaggerated Balmain tailoring (think exaggerated shoulders and bell-bottoms). Then, the eveningwear came. There were recycled Swarovski crystals on clothes that looked appropriate for a pre-pandemic great night out-or for the nights to come after new normality sets in. This was the kind of dreamy heaven that posed serious existential questions-to the viewers. In a fashion world that tried hard to reposition itself in those post-apocalyptic times, is this type of response adequate?

Demna Gvasalia tried to offer answers in that direction-but the execution was far away from what we’d call new. And while his statement largely followed the idea of “imagining how fashion will be in 2030”, the collection was very much Balenciaga 2020. Stripped off its great styling and video paraphernalia, the clothes looked very much last season’s hype. There were hoodies, oversized trench coats, and sunglasses worn at nightlight, you get the picture.

Just about when I’ve lost all hope, there came Rick Owens to save the season, once more. I am not an expert in his work but I could clearly see the designer’s ability to both be true to himself and create something radically new-one show at the time. His idea of reacting to doom was aggression and revolt-just not the gloomy type you’d normally expect. “I just might be leaning into a taste for the lurid; that an undercurrent of thread and dread can inspire bubble-gum pink and alarm red,” he explained. No escapism bubble here, just a sincere revolt towards those ugly, unprecedented times. His sum-up of the collection was telling. “Grim gaiety,” he replied, when asked by Vogue.

Perhaps the feeling of the season.