Raf Simons salutes New York, talks politics at Fashion Week

AP News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2017 2:07 PM
Raf Simons salutes New York, talks politics at Fashion Week

NEW YORK (AP) — It's the little brother to women's Fashion Week — the very little brother. But men's Fashion Week has its fans, and it's a lot less frenetic: You can actually find a taxi! Here are some highlights of the week:

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RAF SIMONS

It's safe to say Raf Simons' runway show was the marquee event of Men's Fashion Week. The Belgian designer — formerly of Dior, soon to debut with Calvin Klein — was showing his own, eponymous menswear label for the first time in New York, and the buzz was palpable as guests packed into the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. Among them: rapper A$AP, Neil Patrick Harris, a slew of fellow designers, and even a frisky, clearly well-connected dog in the front row.

What followed was essentially a love letter to New Yorkers — and a statement or two about current events.

Instead of belts, the young models, many clad in generous overcoats of wool or satin, simply wore duct tape to cinch their waists, emblazoned with "I (Heart) You" or "New York" or a cityscape, or non-geographical messages like "Walk With Me." Baggy deconstructed sweaters — some draped like scarves across the torso — also were emblazoned with "New York" or "I (Heart) You."

In a unique style accent, there were colorful, striped arm warmers piled on top of the coats — just like leg warmers, but arguably a lot hipper. Whether they would actually keep the arms warmer was not immediately clear. The young men also wore chunky necklaces.

After Wednesday evening show, as Simons accepted countless "welcome to New York" hugs, he explained what he was going for in the collection.

First: youth. "It is very important for me, it's where I get my energy from," he said. On top of that, he wanted to portray the experience of New York from two perspectives: That of a young person visiting for the first time — as Simons did 20 years ago — who perhaps frequents tourist stores and buys kitschy trinkets, and that of a more worldly visitor who wears coats of shiny black satin.

"I wanted to go back and remember what it was like at the beginning, and combine it with the experience I am having now," said Simons, now making his home in New York. "So it's a fresh young attraction to the city, combined with what's happening now. Yes, of course the political situation."

Simons said the current political mood made him think about the potential of fashion as a means of social reaction or rebellion — and evoked thoughts of punk, in the '70s.

"Punk was a reaction to things that were happening," he said. "It was a reaction from a young generation of people who kind of created a dress code, but it was a political reaction to a moment," he said, adding: "If people like me could be of help, by being an inspiration (for young people) by what we say and what we think, then I think I would be very happy and proud. When you have a voice, you should use it."

—Jocelyn Noveck

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TODD SNYDER

At 49, Todd Snyder was feeling the looks and sounds of his college days at Iowa State.

Inspired by thrift shop finds and 1980s college radio, the designer who once worked for Ralph Lauren and J. Crew put out a menswear collection Wednesday of slouchy topcoats, thick-cable sweaters, slacker plaid prints and military-detailed workwear pants cut in relaxed stovepipes.

While Snyder stuck to muted reds, blues and army green, pops of color came in wide racing stripes on sweaters and more delicate stripes on scarves. He reinterpreted the retro ski sweater for urbanites in lush cashmere turtlenecks worn with a range of looks, from button-down shirts to blazers. And he went for defiance in British-made Sanders combat boots.

But really what he did was make these college dudes, including those in nerdy high-water pants, sexy.

Snyder has been in business for himself for about six years, including a brand new store in New York, but he's been in the business for more than two decades. Fashion has become, well, fashionable for even more men in his professional life span.

"I think one of the biggest things about menswear is a lot more guys are getting into it," he said in a backstage interview. "I think you're starting to see a lot more younger guys getting into clothes."

For fall, Snyder was going for rugged while playing with traditional men's tailoring, mixing and matching as he went along.

At his new store, he said, customers are everything from 20-somethings to Baby Boomers. Generally, are more men willing to spend big on fashion?

"I think guys appreciate better quality," Snyder said. "They also love great design."

Colton Haynes, Liev Schreiber and Neil Patrick Harris were among the celebrities on Snyder's front row.

—Leanne Italie

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JOHN VARVATOS

In these tumultuous times, John Varvatos has a message: Be wild, but look dandy doing it.

The menswear mainstay, for the edgy rock guy anyway, extended his urban romantic story to animal prints, stretch leather and washed velvets in classic black, pearl gray, camel and officer's blue. His attention to craftsmanship, to vintage and to his rebel self remain unscathed, though he turned himself around in spots, exposing leopard print linings in shearlings made inside-out, for instance.

And the man knows how to do shoes. This time, he showed narrow-toed footwear with zips and a removable fringed outer tongue, including a statement pair in leopard print.

"We're having a little bit of fun in all these crazy times. You have to have a moment for some distraction. Every night you're glued to the television," Varvatos said in an interview on stage before the show in a Theater District club, the Diamond Horseshoe, housed in the basement of the Paramount Hotel.

"You can only have your head down so much. You have to walk with your shoulders back and feel sexy, proud, strong. In these times, people ask me, 'Is fashion important?' Well not as important as all these other things we're dealing with, but if you go out and feel elegant, confident, that's good."

This being a fall collection, there were lots of coats, but he went lightweight with plenty of texture.

"Other than the down parka, most people just layer up now," Varvatos said, so long as it's not too cold.

And when it is, this downtown dude may not be above an olive hooded parka, after all, so long at it comes in velvet with that touch of leopard.

—Leanne Italie

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TIM COPPENS

Many designers like to tell a story with their clothes — but it's more of a mood than an actual narrative tale. Tim Coppens has taken it a little further for his current menswear line, creating a story and a moody photography book to go with it.

"It's the story of Max and Tequila," Coppens explained Thursday evening at his presentation in Tribeca, which doubled as a book launch party, with a DJ spinning tunes and free beer flowing. "It's the end of the world. Yes, pretty apocalyptic."

Coppens, a Belgian based in New York, displayed a pared-down version of the collection he recently showed in Florence, Italy, heavy with street vibes, but also athletic — not surprising, since he also designs sportswear for Under Armour. An example of the mix: bright red athletic pants covered with a long, black-and-white checked coat, or dark athletic pants topped with a red plaid bomber-style jacket.

But back to that apocalyptic world: the main guy, Max, "is actually me," Coppens said. "I came here from Belgium 10 years ago. So I said, 'Let's do the reverse.' Max goes back to Europe because Tequila lives there, and she has a white horse and a white dove and he rides a dirt bike. So we have equestrian references, and dirt bike references." And lots of other references, including famous news photographs from places like Vietnam, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

Coppens was not the only designer to refer to the current political situation in his adopted country. He said he thought about it while designing, and considers it his job to use his voice when he can. "It's my job as a human being," he said.

If the event felt like a party at a downtown club, that's also an effect Coppens was going for. "I wanted a club vibe, like when I used to go out in Belgium," he said.

—Jocelyn Noveck