“To the Archives, No Longer Relevant” declared the invitation, leading to a huge warehouse in Ivry, a suburb half an hour from central Paris, where 90’s rave classics like Dominator played. Personal nostalgia pervaded the collection, recalling the days of scrawling band names on army-surplus backpacks in felt tip. But this was exactly Simons’ point; he wanted to address the waves of youth consistently embracing the brand.
Those coats that went viral on Instagram, replete with scrawled names, doodles, and poetic statements, and punctuated with the initials RS, referred to the tradition of ‘baptizing’ freshmen in universities. In Belgium apparently they can be seen wearing their white coats covered in their peers’ scrawling each year the ritual is repeated. The rest of the collection was a celebration of this very same youth that has grown up in small towns without access to galleries, theaters, and suchlike, taking clothes from thrift stores, blending the 70s with the 90s, focusing only on creating their own style and personal mythology. We saw 70s ribbed raw-edge flared trousers, full-length coats that looked like the sleeves had been hacked off, digital collages, patent leather, and all manner of grandpa knits — all clashed together. It was genuinely refreshing and haltingly modern to see these boys up close on the high catwalk, in a farflung warehouse space with no seating.
Simons was in a reflective mood, and the results were mesmerizing. Backstage he described the label as a “youth generation” brand, and referred to the girls in the show as being a “memory,” the girls who have always been around him and his boys. One such girl, Hanne Gaby Odiele, apparently styled herself, embodying a new woman wearing Raf Simons. This literal female presence on the runway was new and very welcome. The Archives? No longer relevant.