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What do Raf Simons, Peter Saville and Michael Alig all have in common…?

Alex Fury
RAF SS 14 4 300x195 What do Raf Simons, Peter Saville and Michael Alig all have in common...?

The spring/summer 2014 Raf Simons campaign, by Willy Vanderperre

Our spring/summer 2014 men’s fashion edition of The Independent magazine – published today –  really began a year ago: on the first day of the Paris collections, in the Gagosian gallery in Le Bourget, on the very outskirts (and then some) of the city. Way out there, Raf Simons showed a menswear collection soundtracked and influenced by the late eighties/early nineties house music genre known as Gabba. The collection comprised of sportswear, but not as we’d seen it before: torsos elongated, shorts abbreviated and adidas trainers jacked up on ginormous platform soles like Michael Alig’s Club Kids.

That made me think about the collision of fashion and music, the collision of fashion and sport. It made me think about youth, and about energy. In retrospect, it also proposed a striking new silhouette – that long on top, short down below thing, which everyone’s bound to be ripping off this summer. The great soundtrack was by Michel Gaubert – whom I adore. Apparently, he was the “announcing” voice on the soundtrack of Chanel’s autumn/winter 2014 supermarket show, too.

That powerful, punchy Raf Simons menswear show triggered thoughts of Manchester’s Haçienda in my brain. Peter Saville was watching it too. And his imprint was all over these clothes. A decade ago, Simons created a collection in homage to Saville, who opened up his archives and let the Belgian fanboy have a rummage around. Plenty of other designers have done that, too – but few with Saville’s permission. And in turn, Saville is interested in that point where graphic design becomes applied design, and where everything combines: art, fashion, architecture. They’re all really product, and all design.

The Haçienda was a jumping-off point – so Camilla Morton profiled Jeremy Healy, a former DJ at the club and also John Galliano’s musical collaborator for thirty years. He gets that fusion of art and fashion better, arguably, than anyone else. When he created a rudimentary soundtrack during Galliano’s Dior days, it was referred to as an “audio toile”, just as the muslin trial runs of dresses in a couture atelier are called “toiles”.

Thinking of the Haçienda does lead you to the nineties – we ended up at The Face, the quintessential style bible of the mid-nineties. Felix Cooper’s shoot was named after it, because it was focussing on the faces of his young clubbers; but also because it owes an aesthetic debt to that mid-nineties realism. After the air-brushing of photography on every level – from Vogue covers to Instagram – that feels new again.

This is, really, about a new season. New menswear. A new look. Rick Owens was also in the audience of the Raf Simons show, and the day after he showed a collection that reiterated Simons’ silhouette, with a reject Estonian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest thrashing out music centre-stage and the models marching at a frenzied, frenetic pace. It felt like you were watching a rock concert. It felt like you were seeing something new. Both of those shows, like Saville’s graphics in the early eighties, felt blindingly, shockingly new. What could be more fashionable than that?


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