Raf Simons may have left the Jil Sander building, but he went out with the
sort of audience reception normally granted rock stars or George Clooney:
the audience stampeded the catwalk, and stood cheering and clapping,
refusing to leave until a security guard made the tearful designer
return to take a bow. The last time I saw this sort of thing was when
Tom Ford left Gucci and YSL.
Coincidentally, Mr Ford left under a rain of roses, and
this time, Mr Simons set his collection around a bunch of silk spring
blooms in perspex boxes. The metaphors were so abundant, the mind
boggled: beauty kept under restraint in a hothouse? Fake pleasantry? The
end of something (Raf’s time, or the relationship)? Whatever the point -
and the designer wasn’t saying – the result was inarguably lovely, a
collection as full of intelligence as it was marked by grace.
Using the couture forms of the 1950s and ’60s – swing coats and slip
dresses; strapless, full-skirted tea dresses; high-waisted wide trousers
and bustiers – in pastel shades of pink and cream and beige as well as
navy and black, but re-thinking them via unexpected geometries of seams
and fabrics, he created a collection that was both classic and wholly
It had to have made the brand’s owners think twice about the decision to let Mr Simons go, just as the incredibly enthusiastic audience response had to have given them pause. This is a brand that just dropped its golden ring.
Next season, we’ll see if Ms Sander herself, in her return collection,
picks it up.