MILAN--Even before the first look came out at Jil Sander we knew it was going to be a show to remember. You could feel the excitement, but also a kind of sadness or nostalgia, as fashion people let it sink in that this would be Raf Simons' last show for Jil Sander.
Glass cases filled with wildflowers, set on top of podiums, were arranged at intervals on the runway. I heard a few industry people muttering about what they thought Simons would do next and why he sought to leave. The general consensus: No one knows. And even though most people felt a little blindsided, we were all excited to see what Simons had in store for his last show.
The first look, a camel coat with pink lining, walked out to Mazzy Starr's "Fade Into You," which set the tone for a slightly somber soundtrack--perhaps a nod to Simons' departure since the collection, which he had probably more or less completed before he decided to leave, was so upbeat [Ed. note: This used to be my ringtone back when that was a thing--I die]. Pretty pastel look after pretty pastel look walked the runway--there were blushes, light pinks, lavender, periwinkle and pale grey. The palette seemed to be inspired by the wildflowers displayed on the runway; maybe a hint at new beginnings. Simons showed many coats either in pastel colors or in camel lined in bright colors. The coats were all made of a techy-looking fabric--perhaps neoprene. The shoulders were rounded and in many cases the sleeves went to just below the elbow; the general silhouette was tent-like and there were no visible closures except for when the coats were tied at the waist. Otherwise, models held the coats together at the chest in a gesture that felt rather refined, retro, and ladylike.
But while the coats may have been voluminous, the dresses were much more body conscious--both in fit and in style. Many of the dresses had piping which mimicked the seams of a bustier or corset, as well as panels of color blocked pastels, which served to further contour the body. Some recalled silk slips from the boudoir, while others were more sculptural. Simons made use of sheer panels of fabric, as well, offsetting a collarbone here and there or, as was the case with one of our favorite looks, creating a sheer, filmy turtleneck and matching it with a more structured colored skirt.
The show's palette was not all pastels, though. There were a pair of beautiful navy dresses, both with off-the-shoulder straps and a cutout at the chest that were all the more elegant for their subtlety and restraint. There was also a metallic silver skirt that recalled tinfoil, matched with a pale green blazer. And then at the end, looks were done in a glossy black material that almost look garbage-bag like.
At the end of the show, the audience cheered louder than I've ever heard at a fashion show. Everybody stood up when the last model filed off the runway, in anticipation of Raf's bow. And they weren't just clapping--they were whooping, screaming and, in some cases, tearing up. Simons came out, took a bow, blew kisses to the crowd, turned and walked off. Except nobody moved. They just kept clapping and cheering. Most people even stood on their benches. After a couple of minutes, when it became clear the crowd had no intention of leaving just set, Simons re-emerged on the runway crying, and obviously touched. At this point, most people had tears in their eyes--including the PRs who worked the show, editors, and other fashion industry insiders.
No matter what Raf does next, he's certainly already carved out a special place for himself in the heart of the fashion industry.