RAF SIMONS / APOCALYPTIC AMERICANA
Anatomy Of A Catwalk is a column wherein we closely examine some of our favorite runways, presentations, and editorials from designers we love. We explore the impetus behind the collection, motifs, and the historical and philosophical significance of the designs.
Raf Simon’s Virginia Creeper was the designer's return to Americana. A blend of collegiate-wear, horror film motifs, and a play on proportions. Simons paints a gruesome narrative about the current state of western culture in the United States.
The collection took place amid a dense forest, adjacent to a cabin. The Twin Peaks-esque scenery echoed a sense of mystery, of darker omnipresent forces at play. Much like the set of a horror film, the show was set at night and dimly lit with stage lights that brought out the vibrancy of surrounding foliage. The models resemble a cast of characters that would appear in a 90s teen flick, with collegiate pieces filling in the bulk of the costume looks. Horror aspects are reminiscent of the campy horror movies of the 90s like, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”. With many looks like the distressed leathers and oversized ponchos resembling the costume of "The Fisherman".
The show's most prevalent motif, was the poisonous plant the collection takes its title from, Parthenocissus Quinquefolia, or, Virginia Creeper. The species hostility towards humans is present even in the fruit it produces, high in oxalic acid making it toxic for consumption. The plant's deciduous characteristic makes for beautiful natural root patterns on whatever surface it finds itself on. These themes regarding the impermanence of nature and its discord with humanity are illustrated in Virginia Creeper's "Roots" graphics printed on hoodies and sweatshirts.
Simons goes on to illustrate the duality of man and nature. The contention between the two is present within the acid-treated earth-tone garments and the transparent outerwear pieces made out of synthetic fabrics. These included Ponchos made out of plastic, nylon, and polyamide. The synthetic trashbag-like materials remind one of the wasteful consumerism that is so pervasive in American culture. In contrast, the chemical treatments used to soften sweatshirt pieces made them more prone to wear and tear as the years went by. Many secondhand Virginia Creeper pieces are worn-in with tears throughout the body, ribbing, and cuffs on the sweaters. The patina characteristics of the collection coincide with the relentless movement of nature.
One of the central themes in Raf Simons' early work is his play on proportions. The majority of the looks for the collection featured a series of oversized garments. Jackets and coats fell off the shoulders of models, while pants and tailoring were cut in a voluminous grunge look as if a boy had dressed up in his father's clothes. The vests worn over enormous trench coats and packable ponchos create an even more exaggerated military-inspired silhouette. This look was one of the most consistent aspects of the runway show, the other being the footwear selection. (All blacked-out converse sneakers). The fits enveloped the models in layers of expansive clothing, while faces were hidden by scarves, hats, beanies, hoods, and exaggeratedly high turtleneck sweaters. These looks harken back to a previous collection, "Riot, Riot, Riot", where models remained obscured in multiple voluminous layers. The baggy silhouette was inspired by the Eastern European youth Simons' encountered in Ukraine and Romania. The look itself was born out of a necessity to keep warm through the harsh winter. Here, Simons showcases his admiration for youth culture by immortalizing these looks in his designs. This would not be the first time Simons draws from youth culture to create his unique designs and silhouettes, many of his previous slim-fitting cuts were attributed to the mod culture he grew up with.
Out of the many enduring Raf Simons collections, Virginia Creeper stands at the top of the most talked about, sought after, and collected. Prices for virtually any piece on the secondhand market have continued to skyrocket throughout the years. The most sought after item remains to be the collegiate, Nebraska crewneck sweater. While VC remains one of Simons' more famous collections, it is not his most cerebral. Instead, Simons relies on the charm of horror films and playful proportions to tell his own horror story of consumerism, the mystery of nature, and western society.