In the run-up to his A/W11 Jil Sander collection, Raf Simons spent time considering skiing on the slopes in haute couture, Diane Arbus' black and white photographs and the luxurious, modernist furniture designs of Jacques Adnet...
Raf Simons is a designer who takes a selection of interesting reference points – often derived from the art world and history of furniture design – and gives them a modern twist. His autumn/winter 2011 womenswear collection for Jil Sander was no exception, with nods to the work of French art deco modernist designer, architect and interior designer Jacques Adnet and the late American photographer Diane Arbus.
Simons' main starting point – skiing – was unmistakable with the first few looks incorporating knitted bonnet-like hoods and stirrup details, sent out to a soundtrack that sounded like whistling arctic winds. This was more than a designer using a popular winter sport as an excuse to roll out a succession of padded jackets and snuggly jumpers (maybe even a pair of monogrammed skis?) perfect for the cold months. Simons spent his research time looking at Louise Dahl-Wolfe's mid-century images of couture photographed in ski resorts in Diana Vreeland–era issues of Vogue, resulting in the skiwear-meets-couture looks. This season, Simons it seems spent a lot of time considering juxtapositions and melding opposites. He also looked at the work of Diane Arbus, in particular, the way she combined a career in fashion and her contrasting, often controversial portraits of unusual, "freak show" (as referred to in Susan Sontag's 1973 essay) characters.
Three of the staples of the skier's wardrobe were central to the collection – the padded jacket came in luxurious satin; ski jumpers with contrasting polo necks or Alexander Calder-esque abstract prints and the slim ski-pants with stirrups which fed through slits in wedge-heeled boots. This 'strip-through-slit' detail was cleverly echoed in the detail on the front of boxy, cropped jackets. There were no padded gloves to be seen – this Jil Sander woman wears smooth, bracelet-length leather gloves with her cropped, cape-like jacket. The knitwear was standout, especially the contrasting thick cable knits demonstrating Simons confidence in use of colour. To prevent any ski overkill, Simons cleverly slipped in a selection of strong floral looks which he had had rewoven from original examples created by the fabric house of Staron.
There were plenty of covetable accessories, many of them sharing the colours of the eye-popping jumpers. Simons said the form of the bags and shoes were inspired by Jacques Adnet who was a favourite decorator of the mid-century couture elite and believed in the functional aspect of furniture combined with geometrical simplicity. Elegant briefcases and clutches with contrasting wallets tucked into outer pockets – Raf Simons is a designer who knows what women want.
The next Fashion Equation will be published in two weeks.
Laura Bradley is the Commissioning Editor of AnOther and published her first series of Fashion Equations in May 2008. Tom Baxter is an illustrator currently living and working in London.