PARIS, France — You wonder at Raf Simons, strolling through the Palais Royale, seeing Pol Bury’s famous fountain of giant silver balls, imagining them attached to the back of a coat in luscious duchesse satin (preferably powder blue).
And well you might wonder at any of the thought processes that inform a Simons collection, with their idiosyncratic blend of notions high and low. As with his latest: haute couture fabrics fused with scuzzy punk photoprints, scrupulous precision matched to the spontaneity of DIY, the timelessness of a vampire aristocracy sharing the catwalk with the transience of narcissistic youth.
Simons is obsessed. That’s why his collections resonate. They are as inescapable as the endless loop of Liaisons Dangereuses that drove the audience to distraction during Wednesday night’s long wait for showtime. Finally, the throbbing tickle of Bauhaus — “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” — kicked in, and Simons paraded his latest menswear manifesto. Its most basic distillation? More tailoring, no prints, discounting the punk imagery.
Raf’s attachment to his formative experiences is one of the most touching narratives in fashion. “It’s not about memory,” he insisted. Still, he circles those early years, idealizing them, and here, glamourizing them in the shining duchesse coats and the sparkling lurex knits. “New Wave,” he said, “but without the typical ingredients, the safety pins or black leather.” In fact, a T-shirt featuring a hard-bitten punkette attached a jeweled earring to her lobe.
The Frankenstinian footwear was a one-off collab with Adidas. Anchoring the looks in such a substantial way emphasised the collection’s ephemeral aspects: the floating scarves, the knitwear falling apart at the seams, the fantastic sense of the moment that cannot be repeated. Simons said that one of the reasons he was happy to be showing in Paris again after a few seasons in New York was that the model casting was so easy. It was eerie how he’d managed to find so many clones of Pete Murphy, the hollow-cheeked frontman of Bauhaus. But eeriness is a Simons specialty.