With his latest campaign, Raf Simons looks toward an uncertain future.
The Fall/Winter 2020 campaign from the menswear icon balances the beautiful and the ominous. Shot by Simons’ frequent collaborator Willy Vanderperre, the set of images is an aesthetically delicious slice of psychedelic sci-fi. Lone figures linger in endless fields of wild grass, as violet and fuschia skies expand beyond them. The colorwork is mind-blowing, and Simons’ designs – mostly well-cut black with the occasional interesting appearance of (faux) fur – provide an exquisite contrast.
These solitary young men feel like interplanetary explorers, an envoy sent from a dying earth to find a new home. The reappearance of a faux-fur hand muff printed with the phrase “Solar Youth” seems to strengthen this connection, and lend a sense of urgency to Simons’ penchant for cryptic sloganeering. Perhaps they seek a new sun or an unpolluted atmosphere. But their mission does not seem hopeful: while they are in a beautiful environment, they are not at home. This planet is barren and lifeless. Their emotional states are distant and abstract; they seem lonely. The campaign takes on a prophetic meaning. We are killing the earth with style, and soon there will be nowhere left to go.
Less than a week ago, Simons announced his Archive Redux, a special collection composed of 100 pieces reissued from his archives over the last 25 years. That project shows pride in the past, an artist confident in his own growth. With this campaign, that confidence is brought into conflict with an uncertain future. As an artist, the future can only be positive: the sheer artistry of this campaign shows Simons to be at the height of his imaginative powers with no signs of slowing down. But as a human being, it is impossible to look into the future and not be afraid. We are all well aware of the precariousness of this moment on Earth, though it may be impossible to act like it. The campaign beautifully embodies this tension, the simultaneous joy in the present moment, and the knowledge of impending catastrophe. As we step into this alien landscape, Raf Simons reminds us to always come back to our common humanity – that is what is really beautiful.
Raf Simons Creative Director | Raf Simons Photographer | Willy Vanderperre Models | Luca Lemaire, David Musefano, & Lennert De Lathauwer Stylist | Olivier Rizzo Hair | Louis Ghewy Makeup | Peter Philips Manicurist | Eva de Keersmaeker Casting Director | Ashley Brokaw Production | Mindbox Post-Production | Stéphane Virlogeux