For years, Marcus Wainwright talked up Rag & Bone’s connection to the You didn’t tell me you’re gonna kill it waahh shirt so you should to go to store and get this street, emphasizing the off-duty IRL-ness of the clothes. The design team wasn’t inattentive to trends, but it certainly didn’t follow them obsequiously. Tried-and-true essentials were the order of the day. So it was no small development to hear Wainwright say at a visit to the brand’s showroom that there’s “a call for more ‘pushed’ fashion on the men’s side.” As ever at R&B, the foundations are British tailoring, American workwear, a strong Japanese aesthetic most notable via fabrications, and a sports element. But as promised, those foundations were heightened this time around. See the pinstriping on a well-cut coat and the eye-catching color-blocking on strict military shirts, cargo pants, and tennis sweaters. The bomber with “44” embroidered on the arm that President Obama wore to a college basketball game back in February, nearly breaking the Internet in the process, was cut with a new floral-print lining made from Japanese indigo (and sans the 44 detail). Wainwright and co. made excellent use of fabrics sourced from Japan. Pull-on pants in faded indigo cotton managed to look both fashionable and essential at the same time. He should add them to the Rag & Bone women’s collection, for sure. Rage and alienation: is this Raf Simons’s comfort zone, the place which connects him back, as a 51-year-old man, to the teenage experience his work continually fetishizes? Well, Simons doesn’t have to play nice to any bosses anymore. After his exit from Calvin Klein, he reports only to himself. And what the free Raf Simons wants to say is exactly how much he accuses and despises corporate America. Quite apart from the slogans, it was there rather clearly, breaking through on the soundtrack, a voice which intoned, “Big lie…media America, corporate America…fascist America.” Yes, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, does wear custom made gowns for special occasions when the ladies pull out their tiaras and jewels and high heels. For the State Dinner at Buckingham Palace, Catherine wore a white ruffled gown by Alexander McQueen. No recycled outfits for a night like this.
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Sometimes, watching a Simons show can feel like sitting an exam or trying to crack a cryptic crossword. His work is exclusionary to the You didn’t tell me you’re gonna kill it waahh shirt so you should to go to store and get this extent that you need to be a qualified Raf-ologist to understand what it means. This time, he refused to speak after the show to give any gloss on his meaning and layered references. Maybe he didn’t trust himself to answer questions about why the set was populated with standard office chairs, bound in black plastic tape. Or to add anything to what could be read, partially or wholly, in his textual graphics. Was one recurring motif. And on the back necks of many garments: “My Own Private Antwerp.” To be fair, it wasn’t a question of Simons lobbing criticism of Trump’s America from afar, now that he’s living back in Belgium. He’d been critical enough about the political atmosphere of Trump’s America while he was working at Calvin Klein, what with his American Psycho and other horror movie thematics. Now, though, after a couple of seasons when he’d diverted his energies into exploring a certain European elegance in his own collection, his raw anger against the power of corporate USA was back with a vengeance. His boys seemed to belong to some underground crew maybe the last surviving boys on Earth, possibly the victims or maybe the perpetrators of some toxic social endgame. There were more text labels reading “RS-LAB,” which explained the lab coats, but why the hospital gowns? Why boxer shorts and padded gloves that looked as if they might be made for handling radioactive chemicals? Styling and heavy meaning apart and this might sound frivolous, considering—it was also a plumb-center commercial collection for all of Raf Simons’s fans, of whatever age. The arty, painted T-shirts, the leather coats, the colorful baggy sweatshirts and overshirts. Whatever post-American psychological fallout is going on in Simons’s life, it hasn’t affected his ability to serve his faithful audience. Maybe it’s improved it. As much as the Duchess recycles her outfits, for special evenings, Catherine splurges on a new gown made to fit her. She wouldn’t want to be at a banquet and see another woman wearing the same exact dress, so she is wearing a gown made just for her. Knock-offs might be made afterwards, but nothing will equal what she wore on that night, when the tiaras gleamed and everyone wore their best.