L.A.-based Douglas J. McCarthy is a singer, producer, and founding member of EBM legends Nitzer Ebb. He toured his most recent solo album, Kill Your Friends, through Europe with Depeche Mode. To coincide with the current menswear shows in London, we present his comments on the new beat-inspired collection from the acclaimed Belgian designer from our Fall 2013 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine.
In the midst of an array of live shows and studio work, Terence Fixmer and myself decided to take a break in Paris to see Raf Simons’ Spring/Summer collection during men’s fashion week. With buses waiting for us at Place de la Concorde and scheduled for a 7:15 p.m. sharp departure, we joined a large group of Raf aficionados and press for our trip to the Gagosian Gallery at Le Bourget airport on the northern outskirts of the city. Arriving under the shadow of the European Space Agency’s “Arriane” rocket, which stood erect by the side of the entrance, we filed into the already packed but spacious gallery that currently houses a joint show of Jean Prouvé architectural mock-ups and Alexander Calder mobiles. This delightful exercise in scale and modernism could easily keep a fifteen-meter-tall toddler occupied for hours.
With Monsieur Fixmer providing assistance to Michel Gaubert for the fashion show soundtrack, I already knew Raf was striving for a version of his nineties Belgian new beat club adventures, so I was surprised to hear a slowed-down version of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” which gleefully began to speed up as the models did a well choreographed march-around through and under the artwork. They bounced along in fantastically mismatched colored trainers, or stomped in secretly two-tone leather shoes, which on closer inspection revealed hot-rod style flames fanning back from the toe. All of the men had adorably skinny stick legs, which I felt was the only way to show the majority of this collection.
I immediately recognized motifs from my Nitzer Ebb youth, although to be fair, even though we did wear our fair share of shorts, we never donned the onesie variety. And there were plenty of other nineties signifiers too. These included brightly printed, highly flammable-looking A-line synthetic shirts emblazoned with faux billboard advertising proclaiming suitably silly English/non-English slogans like “Super Nylon”. It was rather like if the peloton from the 1992 Tour de France had just all ridden through a bunch of roadside awnings.
There were also more subtle pieces that felt like they have a better chance of making it to the showroom. The mathematical graphic knitwear and jackets had just the right amount of fun and restraint. The eighties NFL-like fabric used for the presumably laser-cut parka managed to retain a hint of retro whilst looking firmly toward the future. Additionally, there were plenty of Haçienda-inspired diagonal details on all of the outerwear, which, seeing as Peter Saville was sitting upfront and center, made perfect sense. ~
This text first appeared in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 35 (3, 2013). Read the full issue on issuu.com or in the embed below.
Published January 08, 2014. Words by Douglas McCarthy.