More and more, Raf Simons is drawing a parallel between modern art and menswear — his menswear — never more so than his spring 2014 collection, held in Larry Gagosian’s Le Bourget gallery, a former airfield on the outskirts of Paris, where Alexander Calder and Jean Prouvé are currently on view. Equal parts art exhibition and late-night rave, gentility and boldness, the collection spilled over with artistic and clubland references alike.
The array of modified midcentury advertising imagery — as many pop artists have done, just not on clothes — seemed to also function as a postmodern push-back to accepted tropes of men’s dress: bespoke, artisanal, lumberjack, gothic, preppy, and any combinations thereof. A further rejection of forced masculinity seem to come in shirts that were so long — on very thin male models in shorts — that they resembled mini-dresses over hairy legs.
Not everyone will like these pieces, they’ll call it pretentious, and maybe that’s what art is. But Simons is at least staking a claim that’s all his. And he’s doing so in a subtly aggressive way that, perhaps, he isn’t able to in his women’s collections for Dior. These looks will filter down into the rest of menswear in a myriad of ways. In this way, he still leads.