It is safe to say that - yet again - Raf Simons' runway show was the marquee event of this season's New York Men's Fashion Week. The Belgian designer has been spending a lot of time in New York as of late, following his debut for Calvin Klein in February, and has taken to showing his own, eponymous menswear label - which is normally otherwise headquartered in Antwerp - in New York, as well.
The set up for Tuesday evening's show: A small street in Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood - directly under the Manhattan Bridge - was lit with Joy Division and New Order-printed lanterns (some tees bore graphics, as well), an ode to Simons' longstanding admiration of and partnership with graphic design mastermind Peter Saville; Mr. Saville recently redesigned the Calvin Klein logo to mark the start of Simons' tenure. Also in the cards as per themes: The 1980's cult film, Blade Runner, thanks (or better yet, no thanks) to the "replicants" graphics, dampened runway, and models (girls and boys) toting umbrellas down the runway, most of which wearing rain outerwear, some of which was metallic-hued.
However, just because Simons' show was objectively the most highly-anticipated, the "it" ticket of the week, does not mean it was a home run. Do not let Simons stan A$AP Rocky's exaggerated smile throughout the show fool you.
Many of the looks themselves, when pared down were as indisputably compelling as we have come to expect from Simons - not from his recent collections (which have been subpar, really) but from his golden archive.
Yes, the garments were very appealing. There was an oversize-proportioned, slightly draped men's suit, with asymmetrically-placed buttons. The screen-printed tees (some with cut off sleeves) - fashioned as tunics - and paired with tailored kimono-like trousers (or were they skirts?) were nothing if not attractive.
And the womenswear pieces - including the deep purple wrap-around skirt and sheer knit tops - were very striking -- and inherently wearable.
But any of the merit embodied in the garments, themselves, was overshadowed, unfortunately, by the barrage of distracting and arguably unnecessary Blade Runner references and odes to Saville graphics - the latter of which Simons has already done before at length - and better the first time around (remember his Fall/Winter 2003 collection, entitled, Closer?). This time, they felt recycled - repetitive, even.
In short: Simons is doing a lot - too much, to be frank. The distractions surrounding the collection (read: the set, the graphics, the way-too-styled looks, etc.) made it feel as though Simons is grasping, and he likely is; overseeing two brands is a lot. He seems conscious of this, and as a result, he is overcompensating where he simply does not need to. The clothes (and rapper-induced hype surrounding them) can sell themselves if you let them.
Wipe away the influx of dated references and the frivolous styling (the mix of printed hats and scarves and shirts over shirts - plus, add a jacket and an umbrella and galoshes - this does not exude confidence. It is more like packing everything you own for a very short trip because you are nervous you'll miss something). If Simons were to pare down just a bit, the result would be extraordinary - he is certainly capable of it.
Or maybe it is just me - and in the current moment when my timeline is filled with tweets about Trump(s) and Russia and rampant human rights abuses, many of which involve young women, I am hoping for a sophisticated-but-not-ridiculously-complicated win from my favorite designer.
Regardless, the most striking part of the whole thing, however is this: No one - but really no one - is doing better.