Cloaking Proverbs in Raf Simons Fall/Winter 2022

Flemish art history invigorates the digital presentation, pivoting into a direction masked by the designer’s ambiguous nature.

The night before February 21st, the Raf Simons Instagram account posted two short clips to announce the presentation of the label’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection for women’s and menswear collection. The videos focused on the blue-cloaked central figure of Pieter Bruegel, the Elder’s 1559 painting Netherlandish Proverbs. The videos hinted at how the proverb would manifest under the Belgian designer’s interpretation.

A popular proverb in sixteenth-century Flemish prints, the blue cloak represents deception and adultery. The infamous blue cloak opened the fully online format of the collection, formed by a face-obscuring hat, and was emphasized by being repeated in several fluffy colors. The cloak was matched with similar silhouettes, fluffy helmets with slits that further obscured the eyes or boxed, satin backpacks trailed by extended ribbons. Hand-painted designs and Simon’s signature of graphics appeared on top of glossy latex coats and dresses. Bomber jackets were a welcomed addition to break up the repetition of mohair and silk mantles, ushering a contention between the classical and the contemporary. That may be what Simons does best: granting perseverance of old tales so that it can retreat to its youth.

The reference to Neverlandish Proverbs may have a deeper meaning for Simons. The adornment of the blue cloak was always represented as a transaction between an adulterous woman to her husband. Still, with the addition of womenswear since SS21, the rigidly gendered portrayals depicted by Bruegel are stripped. From the little communication received from the label, there still must be someone experiencing deception of the cloak. Somehow.

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