After receiving an email from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation suggesting a collaboration, Belgian designer Raf Simons created a menswear collection that glorified the artist’s leather fetish and gayer-than-gay ’70s style.
During the spring–summer 2017 runway show for his namesake label at Pitti Uomo (which dovetails beautifully with the Mapplethorpe exhibitions at LACMA and the Getty Museum, and the WoW/HBO documentary Look at the Pictures), Simons showed billowing shirts with Polaroid self-portraits, leather scenes, Mapplethorpe’s famous Horses album cover for Patti Smith, and perhaps most scandalously (and fabulously) a down-stuffed jacket memorably turned to reveal an image of an erect phallus.
Simons framed Mapplethorpe’s images with cloth, but then further framed them on the body: an image printed on a tabard, say, surmounted by the curtains of jacket lapels, or revealed on a T-shirt under a loosely draped sweater. Simons gravitated towards Mapplethorpe’s sexualized images of flowers, his idealized portraits of famous subjects like Debbie Harry, caught in coronas of light, and of artists whom Simons also shares an admiration for, like Alice Neel, captured a week or so before her death in an extraordinary 1984 portrait. Sex was in there, too; Simons was insistent on that.
Some of the looks below.