Raf Simons is the last hand you would expect to glance backwards and admire himself in retro.
It seems odd to state in an industry obsessed with the now, the new and above all the 'next big thing', but fashion is nothing if not nostalgic. Likewise, in uncertain times, a retreat into an idyllic and idealised past is almost inevitable: look at the surfeit of costumed melodramas that abound around the time of the Great Depression. That said, Raf Simons is the last hand you would expect to glance backwards and admire himself in retro. But this afternoon he seemed, on the surface, to do just that for Jil Sander's A/W 2010 collection, with a palette punctuated with icy pastels, slicked-back fifties quiffs, thick-soled brogues and short, sharp mod suits. Indeed, a veritable mélange of mid-century youth counter-cultures it seems, in themselves a quote from Simon's own past. Perhaps these are all incidental, but to a mind as febrile and cerebral as Simons, quoting liberally from popular consciousness must have a deeper meaning.
That's not to say nostalgia is necessarily retro - as with all of his work, Simon's latest was unerringly, uncompromising new. He had evidently been reexamining those natural forms he obsessed over for his S/S women's show, and this time chose to expound and expand on them through the tailored jacket. Geometric pockets were replaced with organic, amoebal swatches and slices of fabric, sometimes curving at breast or hip, sometimes patched together into martingale belts across the back. Occasionally those shapes formed the very fabric of the garment itself, raised seams tracing around the body in asymmetric sweaters, unstructured suit jackets or a couple of knuckle-deep down coats. Those panels were part nature, part nurture - their similarities to not only rock forms, but plate armour, focally evident, particularly in their placement - protecting a flank, say, or a single patch pocket standing proud like a breastplate over the chest. A couple of the knitted pieces had a curiass quality, and at second glance those puffer jackets cosseted and cradled the body - ideas of protection and survival were evidently on his mind (as they are with any luxury goods company).
What does this all add up to? A new feeling for a new decade, a new aesthetic thrust for Simons and Sander, perhaps, and certainly one of the most intriguing menswear proposals for a long, long time.