Examining Raf Simons' Knack for Artful Destruction

Pin It
Set design by Samuel Pidgen, Model Katie Neels at Elite

The Belgian designer's David Lynch-inspired A/W16 collection saw oversized knits transformed through processes usually used to dispose of them, explains Ted Stansfield

TextTed StansfieldPhotographic EditorHolly HayPhotographyMax Cornwall

White Oversized Destroyed Sweater, Raf Simons

Tonal stitching, 100% wool, distressing throughout, available at Ssense

The act of distressing a garment isn’t new, but intentionally destroying a piece crafted from fine virgin wool can still feel like sacrilege. Unless, of course, it’s done well – and that’s exactly what Belgian designer and the master of contemporary menswear, Raf Simons, did for his David Lynch-inspired A/W16 collection. Knits, such as this sumptuous oversized V-neck were destroyed; rendered with holes so artfully created it’s as if the designer had enlisted specially-trained moths to do the work for him – conducting them, perhaps, to the music of Angelo Badalamenti, the composer and Lynch collaborator who soundtracked to the show.

But what inspired this approach to knitwear? A clue lies in the show notes, which cited the poster city of urban decay and industrial decline, Detroit, as a reference – suggesting that this knit’s raw hems could possibly be a metaphor for the town’s crumbling buildings. The notes mentioned Lynch himself too, whose subversion of Americana and white picket fence suburbia could also be read in these jumpers, which resembled destroyed Letterman sweaters – a key component of the baseball player’s uniform. Distressed but at the same time luxuriant, this piece is a testament to Simons’ unrivaled knack for taking an ordinary garment, funnelling it through his innovative vision, and creating something extraordinary and totally desirable.