The Belgian iconoclast just made his delayed debut at London party destination Printworks, and playsuits were a big part of it

Have you ever worn a playsuit to a skanky rave or festival? Seems like Raf Simons has never faced the horror of entering a portaloo at 3am, peeling the unsticky garment from his sweating body, and sitting almost fully nude on the toilet while sadly considering the life choices that led to this moment, or else it’s highly unlikely he’d be attempting to dress us all in the kind of rompers seen at his SS23 show last night. 

The Belgian designer finally landed in London after his LFW slot was scuppered by Queen Liz’s death a few weeks back, and descended on one of the city’s premiere party venues: Printworks. As 1,000 editors, eager fashion students, and Raf stans piled into the space – with many exclaiming how berserk it was to be inside the behemoth former printing factory in a sound state of mind – they were met with a full on rave. Strobe lights bounced across the floors, trippy graphics loomed out of massive floor-to-ceiling screens, and black paper cups of booze were passed over a big, wipe clean bar, all to a soundtrack provided by French DJ Clara 3000.

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And then came the show. With little fanfare, the bar was cleared to become the catwalk, the stark house lights went up, and the first model stormed out, as a sea of iPhones set to camera mode shot in the air. Ahead of the show, Simons told ES mag he thought his latest offering was “actually the barest, most minimal collection I’ve ever done.” But as look after look emerged from the dark curtains separating the crowd from the changing rooms, it became clear his references and touch points this season were as vast and expansive as ever. 

The show might have been staged in a techno club, with a techno DJ on the decks, but this was in no way an offering only influenced by the 125bpm beats that pulsate out of clubs like Berghain and Bassiani. Instead, the offering twisted and turned its way through the punk and new wave movements of the 80s, the dawn of rave in the early 90s, and landed at the neon-fuelled turn of the millennium.

Cropped, swingy coats in wipe-clean vinyl and mini pinafores paired with semi-opaque polka-dot leggings spoke to the aesthetic spawned by legendary NY nightspot CBGBs, while oversized string vests in shades of hot fuchsia and retina-obliterating yellow, many layered under longline waistcoats, suggested a time when weekend-long parties popped up along the M25. Further echoes of the 90s rave came via t-shirts plastered with artist Phillippe Vandenberg’s works – a fresh new iteration of those iconic styles Katherine Hamnett rolled out during the era, and indie sleaze bands like the Klaxons later bastardised circa the indie sleaze years.

Gone were the oversized sweaters and prim, a-line skirts of Simons’ recent collections, and in came something a lot younger – perhaps best exemplified in the gamine little playsuits that peppered the runway, either in the form of slim-fitting cotton versions with cute collars and button-down fronts, or the second-skin, fine-gauge knitted ones whose droopy crotches were left open and swinging between their wearers’ legs – as if they’d not had time to do them up upon hearing a banger blaring out on the soundsystem while taking a toilet break. A constant across the course of the last few seasons both within his own eponymous line and those he shares with Mrs P at Prada, we’re not entirely convinced they’re appropriate for the rave for the reasons listed above. But if anyone can change our minds, it’s surely got to be Raf.