Naturally, the spotlight is on Raf Simons more than ever since he resigned his position at Dior. One of the reasons for that surprise decision was a desire to pursue other interests and focus on his label. Focus he did, for A/W 16 - this was a homage to Simons' signatures. While much is made of how Simons is addressing and confronting the now - disrupting the way fashion is presented by making us stand and shows and so on - what was most striking about this show was how he looked to the past. This wasn't a greatest hits collection, but it certainly was a tour through his past work and obsessions. And why not? His work and ethos is so influential that shades of Raf crop up on nearly every menswear runway. This season, he'd provided guests with some information - a list of seemingly abstract films, events, people, places and pop cultural gems that inspired him. Detroit, Cindy Sherman, Tulsa, American Youth, Belgian Youth, Scream, The Scream and many more. These weren't so much new musings, as a list of the things that have informed his entire career. Martin Margiela was on the list - one of Simons' all time heroes. Simons had also cited some of his own collections. He was referencing himself as much as anyone else. So the varsity letters that appeared, slightly tattered, on knits and jackets came from Virginia Creeper from A/W 02. The huge oversized shapes drew to mind Waves from A/W 04 and Riot, Riot, Riot from A/W 01. The spirit of Woe Onto Those Who Spit On The Fear Generation..., arguably his most important collection ever, has been present a lot recently - see those headscarves that feature in Simons' S/S 16 campaign by Willy Vanderperre - but felt especially prominent today.
You couldn't separate those four past collections from the other influences listed - from youth, from David Lynch, from The Breakfast Club. To the untrained eye, that list read like a summary of fashion's most pervasive references - the themes and ideas that underpin countless collections and shoots each season. But that's just testimony to Simons' influence - he is the original youth-obsessive, the most notable champion of the angst and ecstasy of growing up. Indeed, that was referenced in this show's title, Nightmares and Dreams. The Lynch shout out seemed particularly relevant - like the acclaimed director, Simons is the master of atmosphere. They both champion the everyday alongside the exceptional, the sinister alongside the mundane. In his soundtrack, Simons' sampled audio of composer Angelo Badalamenti discussing his collaborations with Lynch. His words referenced creating atmosphere, beauty and climax. That's what Simons does so well. The first time he did away with his seating and made us all stand at a show he dimmed the lights so low you couldn't glance around your peers to sense others reactions, you just had to be alone with the clothes. Today, he did a similar exercise, pushing us all into a wooden maze, so close to the models we could feel their garments brush against us and unable to survey the room as a whole. It was intimate - few fashion shows are.
Every designer looks back on their own work, rehashing and revisiting themes, obsessions and ideas. But what does it mean for Simons, to reminisce like this? I took it as a comment on speed, obviously something that is on Simon's mind post-Dior. A lot of designers - Miuccia Prada, Alessandro Michele, this season alone - are explicitly looking to the past and considering the way old things can feel fresh and even new to a modern generation. Just think - if Simons' made a carbon copy of Waves or Virginia Creeper today and sold it to retailers it would feel just as exciting as it did almost 10 years ago. With this show, Simons seemed to reject the pointless fetishisation of change and the need to create something different even season when existing work is still exciting and worth exploring. That came through not only in his list of inspirations, but also in the clothes themselves - they all looked old, worn. They read like homages to those pieces we all continue to wear even if they are in tatters - adored, never abandoned. Simons is both the ultimate pioneer and the ultimate nostalgic - it's a sweet irony. But, after watching this show, and considering the current state of fashion, one couldn't help but wish others would follow his lead. Wouldn't the world be better if there was a little less 'new'?