By Roisin Breen

Yesterday in London, Raf Simons unveiled his much anticipated SS23 collection. His first show in the city, which was delayed due to the passing of HRH The Queen Elizabeth II, was entitled Corps / CodaIt was a celebration of the energy of dance and the impact of the body. Bare, spare, cut away, stripped back, clothes were reduced to an essence and to their essential forms.

There were adical gestures of simplicity – tailored blazers and biker jackets sliced away to tank tops, vestigial features surrendering reminders of their origin. It was an exercise in minimizing action and therefore garments, removing the superfluous.

With ease and physicality fine-gauge knit and stocking fabric delineated limbs in a second skin. Combination bodysuits, drawn in close, streamlined and simplified silhouette. Belts and buckles seemed to promise revelation at their unfastening, offering glimpses of skin between layers of cloth.

Tailoring was incorporated as a machine for the body, classic fits came in wool, sometimes manipulated internally with elastic to flex around the torso. Trousers were minimized to panels of fabric, gestures of clothing, it was a direct language, that of which Simons himself has artfully mastered throughout his career. Tailored skirts combined with stretch, affecting a rapport with the figure beneath.

Jewelry was fashioned from skeletal hands or vampire fangs, symbols of enjoyment and revelry, reminders of humanity.

The collection also debuted a collaboration with the estate of Philippe Vandenberg. A selection of artworks were contextualized as all-over prints on garments and accessories, with a focus on his text works. Handwriting, dancing across paper, was translated to fabric. Their messages give cause for consideration – a moment of pause. They speak of ideas rejected and renewed, destruction as a prerequisite for creation.

The drawings and paintings of artist Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009) strongly denounce humanity. They are moving, provocative and force us to reflect. The central theme is man’s struggle with himself and others, observed through the lens of cultural, political and social history. In Vandenberg’s art, this struggle is often critical, sometimes compassionate, but always imagined in rich color and with a pinch of humor.

The pieces from the Spring/Summer 2023 collection featuring the work of Philippe Vandenberg will be co-labelled RAF SIMONS / PHILIPPE VANDENBERG.



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