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To Paris, and individuality. It is 20 years since Raf Simons launched his own menswear label, yet his work remains radical and uncompromising. His look for spring/summer 2016 saw faces covered in plaid cloth, long coats punctured with grommets and the baggiest pleated pants imaginable. His work made direct reference to Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey’s 1998 film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, which links the Oxford Bag-wearing Northern Soul dancers to rave culture a couple of decades later. He has cited the film as influence often before. Whatever. It was still intoxicating.
Jackets were attached by a short zipper where the lapel should be. Other jackets were fastened by a single deck of double-breasted buttons. Plaid shirts looked fresh. Ultra-snug sweaters had moth holes stitched with an alternate cloth. Raf Simons/Stan Smith sneakers looked scuffed, like they had been worn to many a party. More fitted pants came in pinstripe, as did a pinstripe blazer with matching shorts. Do you detect a clash here between the precise and the trashed? Correct. Simons was looking at subcultures like Northern Soul where the exactitudes of clothing were everything, yet those very garments were then worn on nights out to be abused.
Leckey’s film is available to watch on YouTube. Take the time to watch it, and you will realise now often it is referenced by fashion (Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley’s second Marc by Marc Jacobs show springs to mind). The film captures that all-consuming passion of adolescence and shows that while the style of music may change over the years, the urges remain the same. It is an undercurrent in the work of Raf Simons too and why his label remains so vital as it enters its third decade.
Within Valentino was their best menswear show for a while. Souvenir jackets were heavily embroidered, Hawaiian shirts looked clever commercial pieces. Utility and officer jackets had a neat shape, tracksuits came in woven cloth, suede jackets were studded or embellished with elaborate floral patterns in coloured leather. It was plentiful and plenty.
But there was more. More souvenir jackets. More denim. And more. Over 70 looks in all, the final few forgettable denim. Has someone thrown this collection up in the air and let it come out how it fell? It matters because fashion is all about the edit. Cut, cut, cut. Show less. Let the excellent stand on its own.
So many designers of age are doing youth this season, especially with the heavy lean towards sportswear. Let us see it by someone who is actually young. Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy showed zipper neck tops in the white, blue and red of the Russian flag as well as bold colour nylon zip-ups for the off duty athlete. A multicolour sweater was in a dazzle of patterns and like it had been turned inside out. A green sweatshirt was oversized, a band of orange at the bicep, red and white bands running to the cuff. It was the purposeful jumble worn by kids who get what they can from thrift to make their own look.
T-shirts, golfing sweaters came emblazoned with the year 1984. My ageing brain got confused, and thought it was for the Moscow Olympics. “No!” said Rubchinskiy backstage after the show. “1984 was Los Angeles. Moscow 1980.” He had intended a reference to Orwell’s 1984, but only in the attempt at idealism.
“Plus Gosha was born in 1984,” said Lotta Volkova, his friend who helps him style the show. She was also born in that year. Rubchinskiy has a clever, captivating vision. The young and their agile minds.
Charlie Porter is the FT men’s fashion critic
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