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Fashion Folks Were Wowed by Raf Simons in an Alley That Reeked of Fish

Raf Simons staged his SS18 menswear show in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown — centered in a small alleyway that reeked of fish. Surprisingly, the pungent smell and unconventional venue choice didn’t deter A-listers like Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, designer Marc Jacobs, or A$AP Rocky from standing outside during peak New York humidity to witness Simons’s show. Perhaps it’s because the show actually delivered.

There were references to the 1982 film Blade Runner and 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.

Raf Simons SS18 Show
Lanterns fill the show space for the Raf Simons SS18 show. (Photo: Getty)

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 ’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 “Replicant” — one of many odes to Blade Runner, among other ambiguous phrases like: “About Old Masters,” “A Continuing Process,” and “Good morning and Goodbye.”

Raf Simons SS18 Show
The beverage cart at the Raf Simons SS18 Show. (Photo: Getty)

Guests awaited the show while sipping on beverages such as Fiji water and Tsingtao beer served by Chinatown locals on wagon carts.

Raf Simons SS18 Show
Raf Simons embraces actress Julianne Moore at his SS18 menswear show. (Photo: Getty)
Raf Simons SS18 Show
Char Defrancesco, fashion designer Marc Jacobs, rapper A$AP Rocky, and model Hanne Gaby Odiele at the Raf Simons SS18 show in New York. (Photo: Getty)

For once, everyone had a first-row seat at Raf’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 didn’t look like they minded.

Raf Simons SS18 Show
A$AP Rocky at the Raf Simons SS18 Show in New York. (Photo: Getty)
Raf Simons SS18
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal at the Raf Simons SS18 show in New York. (Photo: Getty)
Raf Simons SS18 Show
Models Hanne Gaby Odiele and Slick Woods at the Raf Simons SS18 show in New York. (Photo: Getty)

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.

Raf Simons SS18
Raf Simons during his final bow after his SS18 menswear show in New York. (Photo: Getty)

So why all the buzz surrounding Raf Simons? He is the newly minted creative directorof Calvin Klein and also leads his own eponymous menswear line. Simons served as creative director at Jil Sander and, before joining Calvin Klein, helmed Christian Dior, which catapulted him to global fame. But even before these stints, Simons’s menswear had a cultish following. He’s a cerebral designer, methodical and conceptual in his designs, often bridging the gap between art and fashion quite literally. The artist Sterling Ruby has been a longtime inspiration to Simons, driving some of his greatest hits, like the Dior dresses inspired by Ruby’s paintings.

Simons has even had longtime collectors; 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 — a feat only Calvin Klein himself has achieved in the past.

A closeup of the Blade Runner-inspired light saber umbrellas from the Raf Simons SS18 show. (Photo: Getty)
Raf Simons SS18
A model wears a New Order printed tank over an asymmetrical blazer with a plaid hat and carries a clear umbrella at the Raf Simons SS18 show. (Photo: Getty)

It was a Blade Runner-themed show from start to finish — 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 “Substance” or displayed an abstract print.

Models wore rubber rain boots in black, white, and brown alongside structured, asymmetrical plaid blazers, hats, and tanks featuring Raf’s signature graphic overlays — and here, with one of Saville’s designs for New Order.

Shirts with the word “Replicant” (another ode to Blade Runner) 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 wouldn’t want to carry one of these in a downpour?

Char Defrancesco, fashion designer Marc Jacobs, and rapper A$AP Rocky. (Photo: Getty)

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 Fair‘s market director, and Bergdorf Goodman‘s menswear fashion director. Their overwhelmingly positive reactions further justify the sensational feeling that rushed through the crowd after Simons’s show.

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