On the outside, the Raf Simons A/W 18 show venue was nondescript; another warehouse for Raf’s fully realised vision of what we would all be wearing in the 6 months to come. As we shuffled through the security checks into the red corridor, shivering from the blustery New York cold, the scent of wine and citrus wafted through the air, enticing and inviting us in.
Upon arrival, the notes of lemon were replaced with a full frontal assault on the senses. Excess was everywhere, from the peeled oranges spilling from vases on the stage, to the hundreds of empty wine bottles littering the riser. Mountains of waffles, chocolate and raspberries lay against a backdrop of flowers, peppering the space in awkward little bunches as Concerto No. 2 in G Major swooned overheard. Had we missed the party?
Finally, the show started. Lasers began to cut through space and the music’s BPM increased 20 fold. This wasn’t some painterly presentation of greed, it was Raf’s Rave, heady hedonism with a whiff of lost boys and sci-fi to boot, the chicest squat party you’ll ever go to.
The collection was based around Drugs, with a capital D. The front cover of the comic-play, DRUGS by Cookie Mueller and Glenn O'Brien was scanned and printed on T-shirts, whilst pictures of a young Christiane F. (the German actress and singer who’s battle with heroin dependency became the cautionary tale for many European children in the late seventies and eighties) plastered the legs of Raf’s ravers. Jumpers, endowed with the seasonal slogan, were slashed at the side and left to hang and wobble in-front of the models as they walked. Coats were large enough to conceal and smuggle whatever you wanted underneath them. Cargo pockets on trousers were flipped 90-degrees and placed awkwardly high on the leg of body, rendered in silk, in-keeping with the ultra-sheen aesthetic.
Spotlights examined the crowded catwalk, accentuating the mixture of billowing and bound silhouettes. PVC gloves entrapped the model's hands, forearm and even elbow, adding a darker, Berghain twinge, to match the show music and wipe clean boots. Jeans were emblazoned with yellow and orange patches, "XTC" "GHB" "2-CB". Designers designing with designer drugs. Whilst supposedly serious, the joke wasn’t lost on us.
I imagine some are not going to like this show - it was not as instantly gratifying as the Peter Saville collaboration round 2, or 'I <3 NY' collections Raf has been presenting whilst in the Big Apple. It felt as if Simons was trying to reach his older, longstanding following for A/W 18. Maybe he is done with his newfound title as 'fashion god', having tired of being a role model?
The press release argued Simons was having an honest conversation about narcotics, 'neither glorify[ing] nor condon[ing] the culture(s) of drugs.' However, commercialising the entry level parts of a collection (hoodies, wallets & iPhone cases) by slapping the word "DRUGS" on it seems to me to be leaning towards glorifying rather than just opening up a debate. Especially since Simons has a young, impressionable following. Unfortunately, whatever the answer is in this debate, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is as an offering for A/W 18, it will sell. Fast. Suits will go to the fashion pack and the early adopters whilst the 'LSD jeans' will sell out in seconds for the kids who want to look cool and piss off their parents at the same time.