Known for his keen interest in art and subculture, Raf Simons takes his thinking man’s approach to design to a new level with this season’s menswear collection. Created in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, the collection is designed around a series of archival prints from the photographer best known for his hypersexual imagery. “Raf introduces a new generation to the work of iconic American artist Robert Mapplethorpe with this collection,” says Jay Bell, Senior VP of Men’s Designer and Developing Designer Collections. “Much like Raf’s collaboration with another American artist, Sterling Ruby, the designer favors art reflective of periods and movements that resonate with his fascination with societal realities, often based in rebellion.”
In Mapplethorpe, Simons found an artist whose career was marked by protests and the subsequent censorship debate surrounding his 1989 show, The Perfect Moment. “Raf shares an affinity for protest,” says Bell. “With a knack for seemingly perceiving the future, Raf’s Spring 2017 show could not have been more timely vis à vis today’s political unrest. It is not unlike his ‘Fear Generation’ collection, which was conceived before the events of 9/11 and eerily provided a glimpse into the chaos on the horizon. The invitation headline read, ‘Woe onto those who spit on the Fear Generation, the wind will blow it back…'”
The Spring ’17 collection features slightly distressed and subtly oversized T-shirts, hoodies, knits and flannels—all deliberately simple in design. “Raf allows his work to serve as the blank canvas and frame to celebrate Mapplethorpe’s photos,” says Bell. “Canvas aprons and white shirts, hearkening back to Mapplethorpe’s companion Patti Smith, perfectly frame the photographer’s most famous images, transposing the garments into wearable art.”
In interviews, Simons explained he wanted his collection to feel like a living art gallery, drawing viewers in and allowing them to reach their own conclusions. The result: A powerful celebration of the moment when visual stimulus and emotional reactions collide, and a reminder that at rare moments, the lines between fashion and art truly do disappear.
Shop the Raf Simons x Robert Mapplethorpe collection at Barneys New York. The styles are currently on display in the windows of the Madison Avenue storefront.
Partnership done in collaboration with Artestar, a global brand licensing and creative consultancy representing elite art, fashion, and design brands.