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Raf Simons On Youth, Rebellion And Fashion

We spoke with the legendary menswear designer at his first New York show.

BY Jonathan Evans | Feb 3, 2017 | Fashion

Tyler Joe

This week, menswear designer Raf Simons showed his collection in New York for the first time since he launched his namesake label back in 1995. In many ways, the autumn/winter 2017 collection was an ode to the city the native Belgian now calls home thanks to his appointment as chief creative officer of Calvin Klein. That angle played out in small graphics of NYC landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and, most notably, in the knitwear created in partnership with Woolmark—chunky, cropped knits that either abstracted Milton Glaser's "I heart NY" logo or reworked it to read "I heart you."

But it wasn't all Americana. Many of the coats that came down the runway were finished with a DIY belt made of duct tape, recalling the heyday of punk not just in NYC but Thatcher-era London. One T-shirt read simply, "Any way out of this." The feeling of homemade, youthful dissent pervaded the collection. And, this being Raf, that was no accident. We caught up with the designer after the show to talk about his latest work, the power of youth, and what it means to react in modern-day America.

On youth, dissent, and rebellion:

"Obviously it's very youth inspired, but it's also to inspire youth. So everything went back to that moment when I started back in the days where my collections were obviously very, very, very…The start of my collection was completely linked to the attitude of youth, and to how youth was dressing, how youth could be reactive. So I went straight back to that. I think on the other hand, I'm doing that almost all the time. The brand stands very much for that."

On connecting with a younger consumer:

"I'm very aware that I'm performing in an environment where we're dealing with the production of clothes that can be very expensive. But we are a brand that is also always taking care to make sure that we have a certain amount of garments in the collection that anybody who is very young can wear as well—especially this collection, actually. The amount of T-shirts and everything which hold very important information for me, when we are talking about this collection: the messages, the wording that is used. And on top of that, even more, because now I go back to before I started, I am always approaching my brand as an inspiration for people. So even if people would be inspired with that, like people in street and they would tape up their coat, I would already be proud. Maybe they just find a coat from their grandfather, you know?"

On DIY and punk, and why he made a specific choice to reference that world:

"I didn't want to go punk in its typical aesthetic but I liked the idea of going there and its attitude. [A] certain idea of 'do it yourself' and a certain idea of showing that through the way you kind of dress together with a certain amount of people that feel like that, you create a kind of group which could possibly be a group that is reacting to something. I was definitely very, very clearly going to that era—without referencing it. From very early on and specifically when everything turned around in this country in terms of what was happening, I really felt like I want to do something where this group of people that would possibly wear that, they have a reaction against what's happening. It's almost like when protesters come in the street, they have, very often, something that groups them. So this was very much about using American things to do that."

From: Esquire

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