This season, we’ve had more of Raf Simons than usual – first in his new role at Prada back in September, and now in his name-sake label’s co-ed spring-summer 2021 collection. There are few working designers so vocally obsessed with youth culture as Simons. But the youth Simons seeks to explore isn’t exactly the youth of today – the young people advocating for climate justice, leading protests against police brutality and racism, and volunteering as poll workers. It’s his own youth that interests him. The metadata of his website, where he streamed his spring 2021 film “Teenage Dreams,” reads: “I don’t want to show clothes, I want to show my attitude, my past, present, and future. I use memories and future visions and try to place them in today’s world.” Designers are plumbing their own histories more than ever in this digital and isolated season, but this has always been Simons’s way. The press release for his teen dream collection lists the films that inspired him, many of which he has cited before, from Alien and Alice in Wonderland to Picnic at Hanging Rock and A Nightmare on Elm Street. That’s the totality of Simons’s statements on this collection, which features his first official foray into womenswear at this brand and his first fashion film since his start in the late ’90s, when similarly rakish models loafed about in Belgian photo studios and homes. Back then they smoked ciggys and drank champers and smushed into a single couch. In today’s film they populate in a nuclear floral set by Mark Colle: possessed, crawling on the floor, snatched into a web. As Simons’s youth in revolt slunk around in the film, punctuated by pulsing beats by Senjan Jansen, his signatures came into focus. The silhouette was as slim as ever and there was ample sloganeering and graphics, things his customers old and young adore, as well as photo prints of family members of Raf’s studio team. Raf stans will appreciate the continuity of his long lean silk skirts, colorful turtlenecks with R monograms at the throat, sleeveless tunics, and body-wrapping perspex tops. A big mustard knit, the sort of sweater Simons himself often wears, will be another fan favorite. It’s worn by both a male and female model, proving the point that while this is technically a womenswear debut, female shoppers have long found comfort in Simons’s work.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.