Raf Simons Explores Clashes And Calmness For FW ’21

by Aaron Royce

Raf Simons has always been in a lane of his own when it comes to fashion design. The often subversive, texture-loving designer has key style signatures (oversized silhouettes, turtlenecks, chunky knits, deep color tones) that he embraces every season, whether at Dior, Calvin Klein, or Prada. However, like previous years, these are best shown in his namesake label—and these were the primary focus for the brand’s Fall Winter ’21 co-ed collection shown today.

Presented in a film format, the show was shot in Genk, Belgium’s event space Barenzaal, and adjoining rooms of the C-mine art center. The collection itself was inspired by six words: Ataraxia (tranquility), Equanimity (calm), Dichotomy (division), Synchronicity (coincidence), Allegiance (unity), and Devotion (love). In short, according to show notes, the contrasts and similarities of “disparate elements,” as well as “references to history.”

The historical references used weren’t just a nod to fashion, though; they referred to Simons himself. Many pieces seemed like a roundup of his greatest hits: thick, knee-length sweaters, coats and blazers with pointy collars, and slightly slouchy trousers—many worn with gloves and pushed-up sleeves. There were also clever nods to his tenures at other houses: polka dots seemed to mimic his recent hole-covered Prada sweaters, while oversized work shirts and sweater vests brought to mind his Americana designs for Calvin Klein (RIP, 205W39NYC!). Of course, the colors Simons used were also comfortingly familiar: bubblegum pink, tonal yellow, tomato red, and multiple shades of green and blue, which also hit the runways in his 2010’s Dior Haute Couture gowns.

These pieces were notably quite simple—gone were the rock star screen prints or subversive messages Simons has delivered in previous shows. Most were single-tone and devoid of patterns, elevated instead by rich textures (note the massive puffer vests and quilted coats, which can only be described as “delicious”). When color blocked on the runway, they didn’t clash—rather, they felt smooth and calm, as if the models had simply slipped on extra layers before leaving the house (for whatever reasons one does nowadays—an afternoon walk? Lunch pickup? A socially-distanced outdoor dinner?). Nothing about their styling felt forced, rigid, or unnatural to Simons or his brand.

Raf Simons FW ’21 (Courtesy)

Against a soundtrack by electronic German group Kraftwerk and the industrial settings of the Barenzaal and C-mine, these pieces still winked at Simons’ penchant for youth culture. That emerged in other visuals, like single dangly earrings, skeleton hand bangles, and shaggy haircuts (some with pops of red or pink dye). It may have been his most relaxed and simplified collection to date, but that’s not a bad thing.

After all, with Simons spending so much time producing new Prada collections (we’ve just entered spring and we have received three so far!), maybe he needed a break from the fanfare. The staples of his namesake brand—and legendary design career—provided a strong core for this collection, manifesting themselves in pieces that looked comfortable to the touch. Frankly, it would be a shock if you didn’t want to immediately wrap yourself in an oversized collared shirt, massive cable-knit sweater, and elbow-length gloves after watching.

View the full collection below:

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