Raf Simons staged his SS18 menswear show in the heart of New York Cityâ€™s Chinatown â€” centered in a small alleyway that reeked of fish. Surprisingly, the pungent smell and unconventional venue choice didnâ€™t deterÂ A-listers like Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, designer Marc Jacobs, or A$AP Rocky from standing outside during peak New York humidity to witness Simonsâ€™s show. Perhaps itâ€™s because the show actually delivered.
There were references to the 1982 filmÂ Blade Runner andÂ iconic rock band New Order. But overall, there was a sense of clashing cultures and a new wave punk attitude exhibited through the collection that left the fashion crowd in collective awe when the show ended. Ahead, five things to know from the Raf Simons Chinatown set menswear show.
The setting was in Chinatown, a dodgy alley with a few storefronts. Electronic raindrop sounds perforated the scene as you stood underneath the rattling Manhattan Bridge while cars passed atop. Chinese lanterns lit the space. A few of the lanterns, designed by graphic artist Peter Saville, were titled Substance 1987 and Fact 50 1981 Movement, album names from the â€™80s rock band New Order. The floor was wet and sticky. It smelled like a combination of raw fish and sewer water, an odor inescapable wherever you walked. Neon LED signs covered the brick walls with phrases like â€œReplicantâ€ â€” one of many odes toÂ Blade Runner, among other ambiguous phrases like: â€œAbout Old Masters,â€ â€œA Continuing Process,â€ and â€œGood morning and Goodbye.â€
Guests awaited the show while sipping on beverages such as Fiji water and Tsingtao beer servedÂ by Chinatown locals on wagon carts.
For once, everyone had a first-row seat at Rafâ€™s show because there were no seats at all. It was an all-standing show. Yes, that meant even Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, and A$AP Rocky stood in the sweltering heat alongside the rest of the fashion crowd in attendance. And that fish smell? They had to endure it too. Despite this, they were all smiles, so it didnâ€™t look like they minded.
Fashion models Hanne Gaby Odiele and Slick Woods stepped away from the usual fashion runways to show support of the Belgian designer on the sidelines.
So whyÂ all the buzzÂ surrounding Raf Simons? He is the newly minted creative directorof Calvin Klein and also leads his ownÂ eponymous menswear line. Simons served as creativeÂ director at Jil Sander and, before joining Calvin Klein, helmedÂ Christian Dior, which catapulted him to global fame. But even before these stints, Simonsâ€™s menswear had a cultish following. Heâ€™s a cerebral designer, methodical and conceptual in his designs, often bridging the gap between art and fashion quite literally. The artistÂ Sterling Ruby has been a longtime inspiration to Simons, driving some of his greatest hits, like the Dior dresses inspired by Rubyâ€™s paintings.
Simons has even had longtime collectors;Â David Casavant owns hundreds of his archival pieces.
Simons also made recent history by taking home both the CFDA Womenswear and Menswear Designer of the Year Awards earlier this year â€” a feat only Calvin Klein himself has achieved in the past.
It was a Blade Runner-themed show from start to finish â€” the wet floors, raindrop sound effects, and Chinese night market scenery set the stage for models to come out wearing full-on rain gear, which included light saber LED umbrellas as shown in the film. Some umbrellas were left clear, others were printed with the word â€œSubstanceâ€ or displayed an abstract print.
Models wore rubber rain boots in black, white, and brown alongside structured, asymmetrical plaid blazers, hats, and tanks featuringÂ Rafâ€™s signature graphic overlays â€” and here, with one of Savilleâ€™s designs for New Order.
Shirts with the word â€œReplicantâ€ (another ode to Blade Runner)Â were stitched on button-up shirts. But the one product we predict to sell out this season? The light saber umbrellas (assuming they even go into production). Who wouldnâ€™t want to carry one of these in a downpour?
There are very few fashion designers who can freshen up the New York fashion scene, but when it comes to menswear, Raf Simons appears to have done just that. Ahead, a few reactions from fashion industry mavens such as Marc Jacobs, Vanity Fairâ€˜s market director, and Bergdorf Goodmanâ€˜s menswear fashion director.Â Their overwhelmingly positive reactionsÂ further justify the sensational feeling that rushed through the crowd after Simonsâ€™s show.