Art of Pride: Raf Simons Men’s Spring 2017

Raf Simons worked with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation on his spring men’s collection, shown under the auspices of Pitti Uomo in Florence today. It was an unexpected break with Paris and an unexpected break with his customary nod to 90s rave culture.

In the collaboration, Simons transposed dozens of the artist’s photos — many of which are currently on view in a massive Mapplethorpe retrospective at LACMA — and incorporated them in various corners of oversized shirts, jackets, and pants. He also channeled a leather-daddy vibe, the kind associated with Mapplethorpe in the 70s, with several black leather pieces.

Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989, was celebrated (and vilified) for his questioning and merging of both good and bad taste, a dichotomy that can be seen in several nude self-portraits in the collection. His deep friendships are also represented in photos of Patti Smith, as well as Debbie Harry, Laurie Anderson, and various unknown subjects.

When you think about it, the two make an ideal match. Both men are hailed as provocateurs, both men have had a less-than-thrilling encounter with Establishment, and both men had a thing for flowers (orchids for Mapplethorpe). Before he stepped from Dior earlier this year, Simons would decorate his collections for the house with entire walls of colorful flowers.

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