Défilé du Jour: Raf Simons Men’s Wear
After a conversation with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Raf Simons was inspired to take it a bit further. From there the designer took the inspiration to his Pitti Immagine Uomo. Once seeing the collection and show, my thoughts also went to #BlackLivesMatter.
The collection was also in tune with the Mapplethorpe exhibitions at LACMA and the Getty Museum, and the HBO documentary subtitled Look at the Pictures. I feel the designer wants us to look at images of everyday people and rock gods , in their natural forms.
Simons is huge Mapplethorpe fan, so it was the right artist. “I was honored,” Simons said after his show, his voice vibrating with emotion.
Raf Simons Men’s Wear S/S17 Collection
Normally, when Simons works with an artist, he approaches them. For this collection he changed his habits a bit. There’s no outfit in Simons’s Spring 2017 show that doesn’t feature a photographic print of a Mapplethorpe. His curly-haired male models, with seductively slanted leather biker caps. Often bore a striking resemblance to the photographer himself—though Simons stated that, rather than the artist’s doppelgängers, “every boy is a representation of a piece of work.” Each could be a Mapplethorpe sitter.
The billowing shirts had shades of Mapplethorpe’s famous muse Patti Smith on her Horses album cover. Robert Sherman, a model whose alopecia made his skin approximate marble in his many portraits shot by Mapplethorpe, also attended the show. Simons had to clear third-party rights with all the sitters before reproducing their images.
It began a dialogue that resulted in an immersion on Simons’s part in Mapplethorpe’s work.
Mapplethorpe was a fascinating character, and the art is inextricable from the man. “If you think about the work, it is so much about him,” said Simons, and, indeed, it was so much about the clothes he wore, too.
On a voyage of sexual self-discovery, many of Mapplethorpe’s first pictures were Polaroid self-portraits, trussed up in leather gear, testing the limits of pleasure and pain. Later, he documented his own sexual fetishes; the leather scene and BDSM predominantly. Clothing was a vital component: At one point, Mapplethorpe began stretching his own (worn) underwear across wooden frames to form unconventional sculptures; later, he clad himself in black leather.
Simons was hip to the game and paid homage to Mapplethorpe as a fellow artist would when you admire another artist. I also feel that we live in a time where people are so quick to label, but the designer wanted to showcase that we are all different and human at the end of the day, no matter what we look like or are into.
Simons’s used the Polaroids as a big references to set the tone and show depth—his palette of black; white; the bruised-flesh shades of crimson, pink, and purple; and the burgundy of coagulated blood; the leather dungarees glinting with metallic buckles. Simons spent two afternoons pawing through the Mapplethorpe archives of contact sheets. It was a very sex, drugs and rock and roll collection.
Simons framed Mapplethorpe’s images with cloth, but then further framed them on the body: an image printed on a tabard, say, surmounted by the curtains of jacket lapels, or revealed on a T-shirt under a loosely draped sweater. Simons gravitated towards Mapplethorpe’s sexualized images of flowers, his idealized portraits of famous subjects like Debbie Harry, caught in corona of light, and of artists whom Simons also shares an admiration for. The designer takes a back to the pre selfie era, when photographers were into capturing moments.