Raf Simons: punk rock revival in a royalist summer
A darkened, decayed garage on a decrepit street in a distant suburb of funky north Paris, and an ideal setting for the latest punk revivalist Raf Simons show.
It felt like Raf took us half way to Belgium, though his eventual destination was mid-seventies UK, the punk rebellion and a time when the Sex Pistols drove the English royalist tabloids crazy by signing their record contract outside Buckingham Palace.
Staged like a faux retro London nightclub, with mannequins hung from the ceiling; or posed before giant gilt mirrors or caught undressed by multiple lasers. Giant black and white photos of early punk rockers with safety pins and mini chains through their cheeks, shaven sides of heads, hair cut like Mohicans. The same photos appearing in oversized T-shirts finished with mini grommets. Tailoring wise, Raf went for his preferred oversized top coats, finished with mini balls and faux pearls, and made in marvelously bold satin greens, roses and gold. These were worn over a wild series of bright Lurex oversized sloppy T-Shirts – great clubbing gear. All the fabric from women’s couture, apart from the jersey and some men’s tailoring. And insider references to the shapes of Jean Royère, the French mid-century furniture designer; or “flashbacks” to earlier Raf shows with silver six-pack beers, finished with chain mail in a wink towards Paco Rabanne.
All looks based on hefty Pinball Wizard platform boots and scrawny pants, it made for an arty revival of a more rebellious era. Now the millennials look, by comparison, almost sedated.
“Burlesque. Taking ideas and putting them in unexpected contexts and languages. Like Yves Saint Laurent when he was doing these incredible color combinations. That moment when punk turns into New Wave, but without the typical ingredients - studs and black leather,” said Simons backstage, after congratulations from Jonathan Anderson, Kim Jones and Naomi Campbell.
After a show where every second look featured an oversized coat, Simons argued that, “we need a new outline because we’ve seen too many hoodies with prints. I don’t think it’s going back but reflecting our time: narcissistic and feminine. You know the way everyone is doing their own dialogue with the world through new media. So the three key words are: performance, transformance and clubbers.”
And very much rebellious punk. Hard to recall in this summer of love for the Royal Family and Meghan Markle that there was a time when a huge swathe of European youth chanted the Sex Pistols’ most famous lyric: “God save the Queen, It’s a fascist regime!!" Words first sung during the Queen’s jubilee year of 1975, another monarchical love fest of four decades back at the height of punk.
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