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The expectations were high.
Only a month after abruptly leaving his post as chief creative officer of Calvin Klein, eight months before the end of his three-year contract, Raf Simons was out to impress with his namesake label’s FW19 collection. And how he did.
Befitting the show’s grandiose setting, held in one of the opulent ballrooms of Paris’ famed Shangri-La Hotel, turnout was impressive.
Everyone was waiting: musicians Frank Ocean and Skepta; designers Rick Owens, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, and Y/Project’s Glenn Martens and Marine Serre; industry insiders such as stylist Lotta Volkova; photographer Willy Vanderperre; artist Takashi Murakami; fashion’s leading sound director Michel Gaubert; and models cast by Simons during his tenure at Calvin Klein including Kiki Willems, Mica Argañaraz, and Tessa Bruinsma.
All showed up in solidarity with Simons — to tell the designer he doesn't need Calvin to stay on top, Calvin needed him.
The collection was split into two parts divided by a musical interlude. The first half was dominated by monochrome looks with splashes of camel, navy, and anthracite, and set to the gloomy soundtrack of "Atmosphere" by Joy Division — Simons has been a fan for years.
There were couture-like, ankle-length satin and wool overcoats, oversized baseball hats resembling horse-riding caps, and baggy, white-cotton trousers displaying the line "Burning Down the House" (presumably a Talking Heads reference), and clean-cut shirting. It was all very sophisticated and surprisingly grown up, with the exception of the skulled pantyhose that doubled as shawls and belts — the designer has always liked an unexpected contrast.
Simons' muse Luca Lemaire walked with leopard gloves and a phenomenal black patent leather coat with butterfly keychains attached to it. Other coat variations came with the same chains, but in cherry and floral variations. A new collaboration with Eastpak took the form of oversized backpacks covered in key-shaped bangles.
The intermission kicked in and Belgian post-punk band Whispering Sons arrived on stage. The music sped up and the calmness of the first half was disrupted, replaced by something much more sinister.
Ten minutes later, the music became more threatening — models walked faster and color finally kicked in. Coats now came in violet, peach, crimson, canary yellow, azure, tangerine, and any other hue, each piece better than the one before. All were color-blocked by shawls, caps, and backpacks in contrasting tones.
Film stills of a crying and screaming Laura Dern from David Lynch's 1986 neo-noir mystery Blue Velvet were displayed across clothing on patches. Dern herself, Simons' muse this season, sat front row and praised the collection to her neighbor Pierpaolo Piccioli, who agreed.
Simons' FW19 collection was mature without losing the designer's love of youth culture. And it was as beautiful and elegant as could be.
After the show, the room turned blue, green, and finally red. Simons ran out from backstage to much applause, hugging Dern like an old friend. The crowd stood and showered Simons with love.
Staying in Paris, here's what Jerry Lorenzo and other industry insiders thought of Heron Preston's FW19 show.