Raf Simons Salutes Robert Mapplethorpe, a Fellow Provocateur
FLORENCE, Italy — The doors had only just opened at the Stazione Leopolda, the decommissioned train station where Raf Simons held his spring men’s wear show, but already there was a throng inside. The music was pounding, and lights flashing, but when your eyes adjusted to the neon and then the dim, there they were: 266 mannequins wearing vintage Raf Simons, paired in groups or hanging over stairways like partygoers at a thumping club.
The clothes they wore were drawn from 20 years of his namesake men’s wear collection, but Mr. Simons didn’t care for the word “retrospective.”
“I didn’t really want to work too much the way it’s usually done when you do a retrospective,” Mr. Simons said backstage after the show. “It doesn’t work for my brand; it’s a brand that needs to sit in reality. I don’t feel it as an installation.” He gestured at the mannequins, who were, he acknowledged with a shrug, all female: “They become kind of a crowd. They’re just a part of the audience.”
Where Mr. Simons goes, crowds follow. He uprooted his show from Paris, where it usually takes place, and moved it for a season to Pitti Uomo, the Florentine trade fair where, in 2005, he showed his 10th anniversary collection.
After two decades in the fashion business, Mr. Simons is at a transitional point in his career. In October, he stepped down from Dior, where he had been creative director of its women’s collection, and though rumors circulate freely, he has not yet announced where he will go next. (He and his representatives crisply declined to comment.)