It takes a talent of Raf Simons' stature to galvanise next season's vague 'feeling' for tailoring, daywear and the 'working woman' into a concise, precise and coherent message. His Autumn/Winter 2010 collection for Jil Sander did just that, continuing in the tradition of a house whose business and reputation were founded on the wardrobe staples of the suit, coat and blouse back in the nineties.
Accordingly, Simons played within a tight remit - not a single piece of eveningwear emerged onto his catwalk - the closest we got were geometrically seamed tartan dresses and slits and slats of silk-chiffon emerging from underneath jackets. The jacket was the focal point, or rather tailoring was, fashioned by Simons into some form of sartorial armour: covering your back, protecting your flanks as you march into war. The silhouette was brief throughout, like a medieval jerkin, the only exceptions being a few tapered-leg jumpsuits buttoned snuggly under the crotch. Simons' suits were deconstructed and reconstructed - a couple of early-bird numbers tearing apart melton-wool pea-coats and piecing them back together with fluoro-pink georgette made that very clear, and elsewhere the details came through as reversed seam allowances or self-fabric binding disrupting the graphic surfaces on checked tweeds. Fabrics were constantly traditional: wool, pinstriped or subtly patterned, checked or in boucle tweed, fashioned into simple cardigan suits reminiscent of another great female minimalist, Coco Chanel. These too were torn apart and remade, transforming these jackets into carapaces: a cuirass crafted from fragments of wool, bombasted into stiffness.
Set to a soundtrack opening with sinister surveillance helicopters and filled with disjointed war-cries, this was urban, urbane armour for the modern world, and for woman as modern warrior. But there were chinks in that armour, winking seams on taut little dresses or the patchworking on a grey felt coat, allowing glimpses of flesh to peek through. Occasionally, hints of a softer layer beneath the stiff outer shell could be seen, panes of chiffon falling around the legs, say, to reveal the fragility within. If Sander was the late twentieth century's great reductionist, Simons continues in her vein. There was nothing overworked or overwrought about this collection, no extraneous detail marred the surfaces of the garments - we saw Simons stripping everything back, ended with a high-collared, thick tweed jacket and brief skirt. A firm, unyielding shell, streamlined like Concorde. It - and indeed, this entire collection - makes every other suit we've seen so far look instantly fussy, frumpy and out of date.