Raf Simons Puts the Designer in Drugs

Raf Simons Puts the Designer in Drugs

By Christopher Barnard

It should come as no surprise that drug education in Europe is on another level than the "Just Say No" business we are served here in the US. Christiane F,the 1981 cult German film by Udi Edil based on the documentary photobook Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo [We Children of Bahnhof Zoo], chronicles the descent of the 14-year-old Christiane into the darkness of Cold War era Berlin's drug scene, and was shown in schools as a drug deterrent, which is where Raf Simons first encountered it as a teen in early '80s Belgium. A poster for the film chillingly heralds: "At 12 it was Angel Dust, at 13 it was heroin. Then she took to the streets." David Bowie makes an appearance and also wrote the soundtrack. Needless to say it serves as a rich, if fraught, resource for Raf Simons' Fall '18 menswear collection.

Within the mise en scène of what appeared to be a grand, abandoned feast with a runway overflowing with flowers, raw chocolate hunks, bottles of red wine and ripe, peeled fruit, the seediness of Christiane's world was undercut with the sense (and smell) of extravagant rot. Was it decadence or depravity? The line is a precarious one and usually made apparent after it's too late. Which is to say there was a sense of urgency to the moment Simons conjured, buoyed no less by the lush string soundtrack that spun into pulsing rave beats.

With the drug references piling on top of each other à la the orange and yellow covers of Cookie Mueller and Glenn O'Brien's obscure play Drugs wrought as a sleeveless tabard, or LSD and XTC patched on slim satin trousers, it begged the question of our current moment of drug dependency. The country Simons now finds himself is besieged by an opioid crisis with the bleak denouement of Christiane playing out in American cul-de-sacs and schools every day. In an acknowledgement of this reality, the brand says it will donate part of the proceeds from sales of the 'Youth In Motion' collection to organizations that support those in recovery from addiction.

As for the clothes themselves, the coats and suiting unsurprisingly were standouts. Boxer jackets with slim trousers, sometimes in sumptuous satins, were an exciting and imminently wearable proposition for Raf heads. The heavy clodhopper boots throughout were the fancy of many a showgoer who could have used them against the spitting rain outside. And the aforementioned "Drug"-emblazoned dickeys will be a must-have for hypebeasts and brand devotees.

Among the banquet of references, from couture fabrics to shooting gallery heroines, the message was clear: beautiful clothes can have dark origins. And the brand's acknowledgement and support of the current drug crisis at fashion's backdoor (and inner sanctum) gave what could be a cynical and exploitative gesture a deeper, more informative meaning.

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Images via Getty