Plugging in and manning up for Raf Simons and A/W 2014 menswear

Alexander Fury
Screen Shot 2014 01 18 at 14.08.33 199x300 Plugging in and manning up for Raf Simons and A/W 2014 menswear

A look from the Raf Simons/Sterling Ruby collection

Watching the menswear shows online – as I have been doing over these opening four days of the autumn/winter 2014 Paris collections – is very different to observing them in flesh and fabric. Stefano Pilati’s Ermenegildo Zegna show offered a perfect case in point: that fancy-pants back projection ocassionally featured footage of the clothes we were actually seeing. But in the opening, predominantly black section, the colour looked entirely different. The screen gave it a greenish cast, the colours were distorted. It didn’t work.

Looking at clothes on a screen is a bit like Chinese whispers. The information travels through a middleman, and therefore has a tendency to become mangled. Something inevitably gets lost in translation.

It’s not just fashion shows. How many times have you bought something online, only for the elation to deflate once you get your hands on the stuff? The reverse is also true:  on screen, it was difficult to ascertain that the graphics of Prada’s spring 2014 bombers were actually created with bonded scraps of fabric as opposed to conventional print. It was difficult to express their three dimensionality through a two dimensional medium.

Today is my first physical day at the Paris menswear shows. But I’ve been an online observer since Wednesday. I must confess, it’s both a curse and a blessing. The blessing is that you get to flick rapidly through imagery, directly compare and contrast looks, jog your memory within a split second. You can also easily disregard a show that isn’t gripping you. There’s no need to sit through to the bitter conclusion if what you already know will be a dud. FYI, I think you know that within roughly three outfits. There’s no awkward post-show bail-out. You just close the window, and move on.

There’s been plenty of good stuff, good stuff I’m keen to see up close. Valentino created a clutch of haute couture coats for him, with no doubt astronomical prices. They looked worth it, though. Haider Ackermann ditched the drippy overly-decorative taffetas and jewel-tones in favour of something drabber, dourer, but much more interesting. He was preaching to a new crowd, and will win converts. And Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy menswear felt more fully-reconciled than it has been for several seasons, and more luxurious. It lacked the immediate, shallow digital pop you got from all that print for spring. The clothes were better for it.

Screen Shot 2014 01 18 at 14.08.48 200x300 Plugging in and manning up for Raf Simons and A/W 2014 menswear

Raf Simons/Sterling Ruby autumn/winter 2014

However, some shows feel castrated. What was the music at Raf Simons’ sensational, seminal collaboration with the artist Sterling Ruby? I don’t know. The clothes still leap off the screen with a vibrant, dynamic energy. They hum with power. They resonate in two dimensions louder than almost any other show this season. Nevertheless, I can’t comprehend what it felt like to see them in person. I missed out.

That is the overwhelming feeling of viewing the collections online. That you’re missing the boat. Speaking of boats, it reminds me of 1947, of those editors and buyers who skipped the show of a young buzzed-about couturier called Christian Dior to catch an earlier cruise liner back to New York. Imagine landing at Ellis Island and hearing about the New Look, about the fashion revolution wrought by Monsieur Dior who had been transformed overnight into one if the most famous men in the world. Imagine getting right back on that liner to return to Europe, to see what had already been hailed as the future by the worthy who stayed to worship. Imagine missing out on that.

Regardless of the indisputable power of the Internet and the undeniable revolution it has wrought on the way we communicate and consume clothing, it can’t compare to the sheer thrill of being there, of seeing the future first. Fashion is tactile. It’s three-dimensional. It has to be experienced face to fabric.

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