Raf Simons is disrupting fashion. Last season it was by going against traditional notions of branding and labels by releasing a whole collection under a new name, Raf Simons Sterling Ruby - the pieces had been designed both by him and Ruby, so why not? But think how revolutionary that is in a fashion system where house names are seen as sacred, brand building is central to everything - from the catwalk show to a social media presence - and controlling the communication around ones house through a carrot and stick relationship with the press has become the (sad) normality. So what was Simons revolutionising this season? The show. That's a big battle to take on in an industry made up of people that love nothing more than having their egos massaged every few months by being fussed over and ordered into hierarchy via a seating plan. So Simons got rid of seating all together. We all had to stand, as if in a museum. All equal. Those who got there first got the best view. Simple.
The lack of rows, coupled with the lack of catwalk - models simply weaved their way through us following rough duct tape guidelines - created an odd sense of intimacy, that same frisson and excitement that comes from any crowded room (who could you bump into? Who was behind you?) This intimacy was enhanced by the running order. Models weaved seemingly haphazardly between us, walking round and round the room again and again so you lost count of how many times you'd seen a piece. They became one of us, occasionally making eye contact and replicating that feeling you get of being a room with someone who once hurt you or made you uncomfortable, when you're totally aware of where they are at all points even when trying to avoid them. Monotony. Repetition. Control. Cycles - all words that are applied and debated in discussions surrounding the current fashion system, these seemed to guide the show. Just as you began to become agitated - have I seen everything? - a new model would appear and you'd be delighted by the fashion all over again. So what about the fashion? On the surface the clothes drew on Simon's past work, rich knowledge of and obsession with youth culture. Uniform was suggested in the head-to-toe colours of some shirt and trouser combinations, while the capes that appeared on the back of jackets, coats and bombers suggested military garb. Those square patches featuring bits of photography or text that adorned pieces - sometimes just one or two, other times many - suggested teen customisation and tribes. But there was a softness too. This felt new. A femininity appeared in the sensual cut of those jackets (5 buttons, as with the great jackets Simons creates for Dior womenswear) and the ornate floral beading on a simple vest.
As if it wasn't enough to take our seating way, Simons also made photography near impossible by filling the space with dark, unsettling red light. For a crowd that loves nothing more than a swift Instagram snap, this was a bold move. It made us do nothing else but watch - really look, rather than admire through the lens of a smart phone, and actually think and take in the technique and form rather than seeing pieces as nothing more than an eventual flat catwalk photo. As the models went past time and time again you wondered what Simons was trying to say - was this about asserting the timelessness of his work, pointing out that it's pretty hard to get bored when watching a Simons collection or indeed when owning a Simons piece. Perhaps. But then as the show came to an end and the models sloped off backstage without performing the usual mass walkthrough we see at other shows - giving viewers the chance to see each look a second time, en mass - the purpose became obvious; you didn't need to look again, you could remember every piece. Unforgettable.