Raf Simons is still relatively new to New York, but judging by his show this week, one could hardly tell. The designer presented his S/S 18 collection at night in a Chinatown market underneath the Manhattan Bridge. It was wet, sticky - exhibiting all the signs of humid downtown summer - and filled with lanterns and neon boards reading 'Is it me?' 'Fuzzy logic' and 'Replicant'. With smoke filling the market, and Tom Sachs, A$AP Rocky, Ashton Sanders and Marc Jacobs crowding along the runway, there was buzz in the air.
The collection was inspired in part by Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, partially by the graphics of Factory Records artist Peter Saville, and as Simons explained, also by concepts of East meeting West. These looks were complicated - oversized black coating, like a raincoat but in leather, fit with wellies and plaid field hats; smocks screen-printed with imagery from New Order and Joy Division's albums paired with loose slung pants and $3 umbrellas; enlarged collegiate sweaters, and faded neon button downs reading 'Replicant' in the film's own graphics showed up. Several women wore wrap skirts and sheer micro knit shirting.
Coating - in many dark and slightly haunting iterations, but chiefly in a crocodile option, hanging off one shoulder and cinched together by giant clips - was key.
So were concepts of layering, both literally (there is a lot of physically unpack in these looks) and otherwise. Simons gave us an offering that brought together the timely (for most New Yorkers, the dystopian future arrived in January) and the longstanding: ideas of picking diverse references to redefine identity; the concept of culture and styles coming together to push us all forward. It was a sweaty, buzzy take on cultural self-creation in New York City. It was difficult to dissect- but with so much energy behind it, does it need to be easy?