Chains, Hoods and Gangs For Raf Simons at Paris Menswear SS16

Raf Simons is easily one of my favourite menswear designers out there. Each season I am excited to see what the Belgium designer has been getting up to for the past six months. A year ago he presented us with a collation of personal images, his mood-board or his Tumblr if you will. Last season he shown us what it was like being an art student in Antwerp, with those wonderful hand-graffitied and scrawled-upon white lab coats. This season he delved into the lives of his grandfathers of whom he did not know but caught up with their idiosyncrasies through looking at old photographs. That felt totally present in this collection. The way his grandfathers and their friends would wear the same suits they'd worn for years, that whole idea of how a person's clothes helps shape a person's identity, without the need to see their face is all what the Raf Simons brand is about. That's what the Raf Simons gang is about, his obsession with "gang" and youth culture has formed the entirety of his career and Spring/Summer 2016 was just an extension of that.

Raf Simons Spring/Summer 2002

There was also aspects of the garments in Raf's latest collection that hinted a continuation on from last season. If last season suggested art school kids, then this collection swayed towards graduation. The same boy in long white duster coats, shrunken knitted vests, oversized pants and all in the same venue, a warehouse on the outskirts of Paris. It felt like why change your muse? When you can just alter and dress him accordingly. Another giveaway to the feeling of youth and gangs was the hoods that covered and hidden the face of the models, hoods and hoodies have become such a huge part in the way people in society dress nowadays. And these Raf Simons ones in particular may have even flashed-back to the idea of his grandparents, although medieval in shape, they featured a checked cloth that they might have chosen for custom clothes for themselves. Gang, a tricky subject matter, when bearing in mind something outrageous is happening in the world today, the extremist Islamic group, ISIS, who are in the news each day. Maybe not quite as a directed statement as Walter Van Beirendonck's AW15 collection, which was related to the horrific Charlie Hebdo attacks back in January. One couldn't help but think that maybe those headscarves were informed by the aggressive but cowardly nature of ISIS? Maybe it was Raf's way of saying why nothing has yet been done? The removal of facial identity like Raf Simons' adolescent army from SS2002. Like I said before, it's not just the face alone that shapes an individual, but their actions and in this case their clothes. Hopefully I didn't overstep any lines there, and I apologise if I did. Anyway back to the clothes, yeah they were great. I especially loved the outerwear (as per usual with Raf), the puddling trousers looked amazing, especially those made from denim, as did the backpacks accessorised with thick chain-like straps, they were some of the best bags I've seen in a while. Not to forget, the Raf Simons X Adidas Collaboration continues, as does the Stan Smith which this season was found dirtied and scuffed up or in a metallic silver or bronze, how exciting! In the simplest of terms It was another great, compelling and meaningful collection by one of the masters of menswear.

Images courtesy of Dazed Digital, and Raf Simons Archive

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