'I wanted the feeling of a sensory overload in the collection,' Raf Simons said in his press notes. The designer could hardly be accused of sensory restraint; from the sheer energy and clarity of view through which he's re-imagined the French powerhouse, to the scope of his globally-minded past collections, to the more literal and his flower-strewn show spaces, a Simons collection is always totally immersive. Today's show followed suit - pretty literally; suits were the main focus of the collection. The excess, if not exactly in the set design, was evident in the textures, the glossiness of the pretty psychedelic prints (more on those later) and the confidence that characterised it all. Nature, the feminine versus the masculine, animals and animalistic impulses - an overload of ideas.
The two little black dresses that opened the show, with their sequin pointy collars, flipped with each step revealing a contrasting lining underneath - pale blue in one, coral in the other. Yet, it was those who-knows-how-high sleek vinyl boots, and their shorter calf-length versions - that caught the eye. They were Simons' reinterpretation of the animal print, first introduced by Christian Dior in 1947, here rendered almost unrecognisably abstract and in a hyper-natural palette. Simons' 'femme animal' is of a darker, more instinctive and intelligent nature, 'this animalistic, sexual woman wearing a new kind of camouflage,' according to his notes. Her camouflage for today? A wool tweed suit not of the Bar jacket variety but more androgynous, cut a little bigger, double-breasted and paired with straight trousers cropped mid-calf. And a woman in today's world needs a big coat to seek cover in, so Simons offered those too in cashmere apple green or heather red felted wool or green and ochre tweed. There was playfulness on offer too, in the way tweed skirts were almost shredded and collaged with the overblown animal print, in a black knitted harness of a dress that revealed a pale pink oversized shirt underneath, ln the pastel pink and green shimmer of the fox fur coats or the space-age bodysuits carried over from Couture, seemingly inconspicuous under those oversized coats. Sensory overload accomplished!