Hardcore colour. That was the first phrase that sprang to mind at Jil Sander's S/S 2011 collection, from fluoro fuchsia lips to the glossy multicoloured soles of the shoes. Although, when one says 'from head to toe', we're not talking a single colour, but a head-on collision of jarring, mismatching shades. It's been a big story in Milan this season, but Raf Simons is a dab hand - not only in his S/S menswear for the house shown back in June, but his colour-blocked ready-to-wear a few years ago. That arguably broke the modernist taboo on smashing together shades like vibrant tangerine and highlighter pink (Christopher Kane owes him a debt of thanks for that one) and this season Simons intensified his experiments, clashing viridian green with cerise, vibrating violet with daffodil, cobalt with coral.
A few of those dayglo combinations we saw at Simons' Sander menswear, along with colourful shoe soles and an odd predillection for outlining pleat and vent details in contrast fabric adhesive tape. What felt different this time from any of his previous Sander outing was that Simons tackled trickier shapes for those shades, namely the voluminous and undeniably grand forms of mid-century haute couture. There was a touch of the Balenciaga (Cristobal, naturally) to domed, dolman-sleeve jackets in bubbly-textured wool, and to slightly bulbous floor-length skirts caught in at waist and hem. They reminded one of the way Balenciaga used to concieve his garments: volume first, figure second, in an abstraction of form. As daywear those could sometimes feel a touch formal, even when worn with the simplest of cotton t-shirts, so Simons dissected them into short, puffy pelmets of contrast cloth he attached to the hips of simple trousers, a touch of couture frivolity for the modern working women.
That's how this collection felt, modern, even in its more grandiose stabs at couture silhouettes past. Maybe it was that broad recolouring that kept everything looking new - certainly, when Simons sent out a few florals and bandbox stripes they didn't have the anywhere near the power of those zinging juicyfruit solids. The whole exercise felt like a joyful, unabashed recolouring of the trademark Sander wardrobe of minimalist workwear. Just as your eyes need time to adjust when leaving a darkened room into blazing sunshine, it took our eyes a while to find the beauty. But the final outfit hit the nail on the head: chlorophyll-green jacket, hot-pink trouser and magenta t-shirt, all under a very serviceable black coat. That's how real women will really wear Simons' spectrum.