A massive rave situation. A long bar that turned into a runway. A thousand young people, students, artists, designers, musicians, DJs, and fashion types, all pressed together in the chaotic spirit of euphoric togetherness that Raf Simons wanted to whip up around the showing of his spring collection in London.
“I decided to come to London last year, because I felt the energy was incredible,” he said, while prepping a show at Printworks, a massive post-industrial newsprint factory whose cavernous halls have long been reappropriated as a club night venue that is about to be torn down. Simons has been a visitor to London’s Frieze art fair for years; it falls this week.
Post-Covid, post-Brexit, he observed, “you feel London, and the country is a hurt animal, but it’s an animal that’s ready to go out. There’s something positive within the negative. I saw it again, this week, going to galleries. Somehow people mix up here, start conversations. Coming to the city, the streets, the community is always inspiring.”
Acting at the edge, in the margins—for and with youth—has always been the grounding of his brand. These gritty, dystopian times feel a lot like Raf Simons’s underground beginnings in the 1990s—it took him back to his memories as a kid of jostling with friends, faking tickets to get into fashion shows.
“So I thought, let’s not do that. Let’s just invite everybody instead. I didn’t want a show for 300 people sitting in rows. This is a show that’s pure democracy. No hierarchy. A London explosion of youth, life, dancing, and being together. So,” he added, “I was thinking a lot about the body, in relation to dressing up and going out and performing.”
Simons took that prospect as a challenge not to fall back into any comfort-zone of predictable youth-cult signifiers. “I started with the opposite of going out from my own past. It was about dancing, going out together, but I also didn’t really want to fall in the trick of Blitz Kids, or the clichés. So I wanted to explore something I never did before, which was the body. To have the body liberated, to see and feel the body to expose it; also to allow the body to be in movement.”