Saturday, 25 February 2012

MFW A/W2012: Bittersweet Beauty from Raf Simons at Jil Sander

 [All images: Fashion Gone Rogue]. 

As I write this, I'm struggling to describe this collection. For designer Raf Simons this was his swansong at Jil Sander, where he has hung up his scissors and handed over to the lady herself. There are many rumours about Simons being in the frame for John Galliano's job at Dior, and this show proved that he would be more than capable of taking the reins. It was a masterclass in how to take a bolt of fabric and make it work as hard as you possibly can, beautifully framing the models and alternately revealing and concealing certain areas. 

Simons should be incredibly proud of what he has achieved here, which is perhaps most obvious in the drapery of this delicately pink coat. The material has a waterfall finish that is simplistic but really works, and the lack of jewellery means that there are no distractions. This coat does the talking.

The 1940s and 50s feel was evident in sleek pieces such as this combination of nude bodiced top and high-waisted trousers, creating a silhouette that played with proportions. There's a distinct feeling that you don't have to try too hard in this outfit, which is especially strong when the fashion world is so currently obsessed with kookiness and the kaleidoscope dressing of Nicki Minaj. The woman who chooses to wear this over a loud neon ensemble or comedy flares is saying that she can do things differently.

 A pure shot of 1950s glamour, this is like the grown up older sister to Prada's S/S12 sherbet-obsessed girl. The cut-out panel sounds tacky in theory but is actually quite sophisticated. Perhaps on a woman with the average British figure, this would be verging on cleavage overkill, but I don't think that was the look that Simons intended. I am secretly hoping that a celeb will get their hands on it and make it slutty, just to watch the Daily Mail go up in arms about it.

Another dose of sheer panel action, but this time on a looser cut dress with blocks of fabric. Again, the people at Jil Sander are certainly not aiming at women with real and often uncontrollable breasts (it's certainly not designed for running for a bus), but this is a sedate take on eveningwear. Although it's a polished look, you don't have to try too hard with this shape or colour - just a slash of red lipstick and heels is all it takes.

This dress reminded me of those 1950s science fiction books that used to imagine what life would be like in the 21st century, when we'd all have robot friends and flying cars. It's an idealised version of the future, where everything is smooth and minimalist and incredibly efficient. The accompanying cocoon coat is equally impressive and gives a nod to all things space-age.

A lesson in how to do the fetish/dominatrix look without getting propositioned by strangers on the street, this dress is cut for curves. I can see it working on Kate Winslet, who would enjoy the failsafe black but has shown her daring side in pieces such as Stella McCartney's infamous sheer spot dress.

 Yes, I know this one could look slightly dodgy if you imagine it was made with bin bags and not expensive synthetic material, but there's something playful about the trashiness of the look. Rightfully this should look cheap and the model should appear slightly hungover, possibly with remnants of kebab stuck to her heels, but in Jil Sander mode then she is silent, poised and deadly. The fussiness of the cut is in contrast to the clean lines that much of the collection promotes, and yet this somehow works.

Full-length coats are often sneered at, and I am one of the sneerers, but in the depths of winter they can be incredibly useful. When they're cut like this pink number with the pale yellow lining and wide collar, you can't help but be tempted by the idea. There's also the potential of hiding a garish outfit underneath, which you later reveal when you're in less respectable company.

In conclusion, this was an amazing final show by Raf Simons for Jil Sander, and it's no wonder that the crowds provided a standing ovation at the end. I look forward to seeing these pieces make their way into high street imitations, heralding a return to minimalism and expensive-looking cuts.

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