Since Simons’ move to America and his appointment at Calvin Klein, he has been a vociferous critic of Donald Trump. As a professed admirer of American culture and the country’s history, Raf Simons has expressed through his recent collections his discontent over the current administration and its perceived threat to core American values.
It comes as no surprise that fashion and politics have always been irrevocably bound. In the 1960s, students in America wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, and in the 1980s punk fashion was born as a reaction to the growing obsession with materialism and consumerism at the time. Fashion has always been an evolving organism and an effortless reflection of the corresponding time-period, constantly changing and reshaping according to the turbulence of the socio-political conditions. As such, fashion has been employed throughout history as a communications tool, a way for artists in the industry to express their political inclinations.
In recent years, this synergy between fashion and politics has lost its relative potency due to its overexposure. Everyone is doing it and graphic t-shirts like Vivienne Westwood’s “I’m Not a Terrorist” and Christian Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” are worn by the public, not for their political overtones, but because they are “cool”. What differentiates Raf Simons’s AW17 collection from its unsuccessful predecessors is that Simons explicitly designed his entire collection around his political message. Not one piece from his collection veers from this direction, and it is very evident to the audience what his intentions are. The “I Love You” knitwear, as shown in the above image, symbolizes his love for America. The now famed “NY” sweater conveys the same sentiment. For someone who has variously expressed his disappointment over the Trump administration, his new collection reflects a sense of wistfulness and a longing to return to the old America, the same one that Simons fell in love with.
Simons’s political intentions were made even clearer in his first ever collection for Calvin Klein during New York Fashion Week. His collection centred around an American horror theme, featuring prairie quilts, cowboy boots, and shirts in luminous colours. The stand-out colour was blood red and mixed with traditional American garments, causing the collection to paint a very dark and gloomy picture of America. There were various direct references to American horror films with shoes inspired by Jason’s mask in Friday the 13th and violent photographs from Andy Warhol. There is a stark contrast to be observed here with Simons’ personal label, but they convey the same message.
Ironically, Melania Trump was seen wearing a cowboy shirt from Simons’ new collection, seemingly unaware of the designer’s deep-rooted intentions. As one of the most hyped collections of the year, will Raf Simons’ new collections kickstart a proper opposition to the Trump administration and bring the fashion industry together in this endeavour, or will they be brushed away and their significance lost just like they were by the First Lady? Comment below and let us know what you think.
Words: Joonsoo Yi
Hashtags: #fall #fashion #knitwear