Thanks to an article on Vogue's site this summer, in which he gushed about his obsession with Belgian-born design god Raf Simons, we know that streetwear designer Virgil Abloh (the man behind Pyrex) is a fan. With his Spring/Summer 2015 Off-White womenswear collection, Abloh is apparently taking his Raf Simons fandom to another level. You may recall that for Fall/Winter 2002, Simons took to the woods to show his collection entitled, "Virginia Creeper." Among the garments were a number of hooded sweatshirts, most of which were layered under clear ponchos, that featured elements of Americana-inspired college clothing, a recurring theme in Simons's early work. Subsequently, the Nebraska sweatshirt was styled on model Natalia Vodianova for an October 2002 editorial in the UK's The Face magazine (pictured below, left). Enter: Virgil Abloh's Spring/Summer 2015 womenswear collection and the Nebraska sweatshirt. While the two garments are distinct in silhouette, it feels a bit close for comfort considering Abloh's inspiration for the collection ...
Of the Nebraska collection, Abloh said: "The women’s collection is entitled 'Nebraska' which for me is a metaphor for “in-the-middle” Middle American collegiate schools spirit." If this sounds familiar, it is because it is a recurring Raf Simons theme. Beginning with his very first collection, Fall/Winter 1995, Simons, known for his exploration of youth codes, looked to school uniforms. For Fall/Winter 1997, he continued this theme with what Peter Henderson of the Hapsical blog described in his much-celebrated 15 Years of Brilliance article as "American college students and English schoolboys with a background of New Wave and Punk." Again, for Spring/Summer 2000, we saw similar references from Simons in his 'Summa Cum Laude' collection; the name itself is quite telling. And then, for Fall/Winter 2002, Simons showed "sweaters and t-shirts resemble the logo-ed gear of US high-schools and colleges," per Henderson. Even more recently, Style.com picked up on Simons's penchant for collegiate references; of his Fall/Winter 2011 collection, Tim Blanks wrote: "As these student classics implied, Simons had college on his mind. His young idealists could wear a bonded flannel sweatshirt advertising their allegiance to Dead Prince College."
Simultaneously, Simons has explored varsity and academia-inspired themes in his ongoing collaboration with Fred Perry. As recently as Fall/Winter 2013, Simons's collection for Perry mixed classic mod styles with Americana-influenced varsity jackets and emblems with oversized lettering. While the varsity style jacket is extremely common place in men's fashion, it has not always been this way, and not surprisingly, Simons had a hand in establishing its popularity on the runway. This is something that David Vandewal, a long time friend and collaborator of Simons's spoke to us about last year. Of Simons's early design process, he said:
Well, it was really interesting because Raf was, at that time, really famous for that particular slim, skinny rock n roll guy, but then he didn’t stop with that concept. He kept conceptualizing all of these youth codes. When I was working with him, we were working from the opposite end, like maxi-volume, layering, and really a lot of research on the American culture codes of varsity jackets and high school, and even down to now what are very normal things in fashion. That was so absurd and unique back then and we sort of started exploring all that stuff.
As a result, it appears that Abloh's Spring/Summer 2015 collection is quite dependent on a theme with which Raf Simons is so closely aligned. While there is hardly a legal issue in play here, as Simons doesn't have a monopoly on Nebraska sweatshirts, whether Abloh's sweatshirt represents inspiration or plain old imitation is for debate.