Raf Simons and Walter Van Beirendonck Get Ziggy with It

Published January 17, 2013

Just when you think he’s a hardcore menswear structuralist, Raf Simons parades his feminine, zany side. This season, he did it with brilliantly-colored satin trousers, scoopneck swing coats, and intarsia sweaters covered with cartoons. The overall effect looked like Marcel Duchamp had taken up menswear in a David Bowie way. The cut-and-paste collage contrasted color and shape: classic jackets had a bar of fabric tacked across the chest, women’s shirt cuffs bloused over coats, and brilliant satin trousers looked like evening gowns repurposed for a man’s wardrobe.

The scoopneck coats were a standout. With round patch pockets—one embroidered with a man’s profile framed by a question mark like a club insignia—stiff ties at the neck, and a bias drape in bright colors, they’re androgynous, à la Ziggy Stardust, but far from drag. Simons kept the palette dark for heavier, tailored pieces—the better to extract the maximum bang from the bright colors in the shirts, sweatervests covered with Puss in Boots and other geometric cartoons, and satin pants. A pink shirt worn with a red turtleneck, bright satin stripe sweatshirt, and a sleeveless 3/4 perfecto coat in red-lined blue subverted men’s classics with flamboyant performance style.

It’s a rare season when fellow Belgians Walter Van Beirendonck and Raf Simons are on the same wavelength, but within a few hours of each other yesterday afternoon, they offered two modern homages to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust full of color, flow and panache.

Van Beirendonck has never been shy about flamboyance, and he made one of his more convincing cases for it in this “Shut Your Eyes to See” collection, with high-rise pleated trousers, intricate hand-knit sweatervests, and tailored jackets inset with glittery thunderbolts, or fronted by large geometric cutout characters. The chunky metallic brogue heels, bright argyle socks, and quilted knee pants looked like a cross between golf regalia and tea dance drag. Tuxedo jackets in crinkly Lurex brocades had a fey crooner quality, and gigantic topcosts in reconstituted wool over black leather pants made the most of contrast volumes.

There’s no limit to Van Beirendonck’s fantasies, and he never loses his sense of humor. His Bowie-ness is clownish and sci-fi, with metallic stretch tops, plaid suits patched with tinsel fringe, and crystal Jagger lip jewelry by London’s Anonyme Jewel. After all this, Van Beirendonck’s Aladdin Sane awakes from the dream in a plaid bathrobe coat struck with thunderbolts.