It’s undeniable that Raf Simons’ turn at Christian Dior is one of the most exciting things to happen in the world of womenswear, but the designer’s excellent work in menswear should not be overlooked. And it won’t be if growing global power-house Mr Porter has anything to do with it. Simons is just one of four leading brands that the online retailer has commissioned to create capsule collections exclusively for the site.
Available from tomorrow, Simons’ designs make use of the punchy shades and floral motifs from his mainline grunge-inspired spring/summer collection. The starting point for the 13-piece collection for Mr Porter was “uniquely painted watercolours which were transformed onto fabric,” explains Terry Betts, senior buyer for the site who is “excited to be collaborating with one of the most creative designers currently working in the industry.” With results like these, who wouldn’t be?
The watercolour print, inspired by “grunge, nature, softness”, according to Simons, is resized and re-purposed across different garments – ranging from a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it accent on tailored shorts to full-on ditsy-printed T-shirts. “Fashion speaks about our time, about the world we live in, about the way we are,” says Simons. “Fashion and art are both creative expressions. They can connect but it’s not a necessity. For me it’s only interesting if they connect naturally, where there is a mutual attraction; a mutual interest.”
The acclaimed Belgian’s work may be seen as “challenging” by some who still see florals and bright colours as part of a feminine fashion domain, but the designer is happy to provoke such reactions: “The primary meaning for me doing fashion is to have a dialogue. And another important reason is to cause a dialogue. I think dialogue is essential to evolution; to the future. I don’t know [what the next big movement in men’s fashion is going to be]. And actually I don’t want to know. It’s more of a challenge if I don’t know the answer.”
Another designer whose appointment at a Parisian house has racked up the column inches over the last year is Alexander Wang – the young American who filled Nicolas Ghesquière’s recently vacated seat at Balenciaga last November. For his collaboration with Mr Porter, which goes on sale next week, Wang has brought the stripped-back sportswear vibe that runs through his eponymous menswear main line and its diffusion label. “The collection includes some of my favourite styles from our ready-to-wear and T by Alexander Wang collections; these pieces are essentials in my everyday wardrobe,” says the designer of the sports-luxe separates. “It felt right to make the selection really personal and effortless.”
While the big-names of Simons and Wang may garner the most attention, Mr Porter has also worked with Japanese brand Beams Plus on an “Ivy Surf” line of six pieces inspired by The Surf Ivy artworks by Koji Toyoda. “Toyoda’s designs have a very special taste as surf designs,” says Shinsuke Nakada, director of Beams Plus. “I thought his way of life had something to do with American traditional styles. Ivy [League] styles with the ‘sloppy’ essence of surfers – I got very excited when I came up with this concept.”
Alexandre Mattiussi of French brand Ami based his 13-piece collection on what he imagined a “guy at a terrasse de café in summer” is wearing, focusing specifically on “les bords du Canal Saint Martin”, the area in which stylish Parisian crowds hang out on summer nights. Trés chic, Monsieur Porter.