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Monday, June 29, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Raf Simons

Ah, Raf, if only your show had begun really late. Instead I found myself on the other side of a firmly closed door just after it began, with the haunting piano from Eyes Wide Shut (Dominic Harlan's Musica Ricercata N°2) wafting over the garden wall. Why was I late? Just before, John Galliano had held Napoleonic court at the derelect Piscine Molitor in a sleepy neighborhood on the other side of town and there were no taxis afterward. That meant a harrowing, sweaty, doomed metro trip and, between shows the next day, a trek to Simons' showroom deep in the heart of the 9th arrondissement to finally ogle his wares.

First of all, suck it in because you will need a waistline to wear Simons' new suits, which come with their own wide, webbed belts, or feature incorporated leather belts (some with snakehead buckles) that twist around the torso like, well, a snake. Some jackets have a layer of satin lining fabric over the sleeves, which you can roll like, well, a snake. After browsing through the racks in the showroom, it became apparent that Simons has been struck with a slithery reptilian obsession.

The tailoring has body, thanks to high-tech constructions like a rough-edged overcoat—look ma, no hems!—in thin cotton fused with polyurethane. Imagine a filmy, slightly rubbery handkerchief. The raw-edged sweatshirts in Japanese jersey (currently Simons' favorite material, I'm told) are bonded, which stiffens them to give the wearer a chest he may or may not actually possess. The best one is in dusty pink like a blush.

The style, at times, is downright Cavalliesque, with white canvas jeans in a coiling snake print. Only, the canvas is workwear thick with industrial zipper pockets and the cut is square—so it's really Belgian, not Neapolitan. Simons appears to be toying with menswear's smarmy side. His stint in Milan as creative director for Jil Sander, and the Italian production for his own brand, has opened the door onto a world that makes the sincerely boyish clothes of his early days seem like a lifetime ago.

—Rebecca Voight

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