Raf Simons' Spring 2017 menswear collection pays homage to photographer Robert Maplethorpe. And while Raf Simons isn't the first fashion designer to be inspired and motivated by famous artists, to say Maplethorpe was merely an inspiration would be an inaccuracy because he served much more to this collection. When the Robert Maplethorpe Foundation approached Raf Simons and gave him carte blanche to Maplethorpe's body of work, the designer interpreted a runway collection that embodies the artistic and personal essence of the photographer. In the HBO documentary about the life and career of Robert Maplethorpe, titled Look at the Pictures, the film does an excellent job of chronicling the artist's journey of self-discovery and sexual exploration. I've been a Maplethorpe fan for 20+ years and I urge you to watch the documentary. I learned that Maplethorpe had no separation between life and art - it was one in the same for him. Even though his very known for controversial works about BDSM and his own gay fetishes, let's not forget his exquisite images of flowers and his portraits of famous people like his muse/lover Patti Smith and designer Carolina Herrera.
Circling back to Raf Simons Spring 2017, the designer delve deeply into Maplethorpe to create a menswear collection that was a curatorial representation of the artist's prolific body of work. Every single piece in the menswear collection features a Maplethorpe print - florals, self-portraits and if you look closely, not so closely, you'll find and erect prize or two. The curly-haired models, that looked like an army of Maplethorpes, marched down the runway in over-sized shirts, some in leather dungarees and many in half-cocked (pardon the pun) leather biker caps. The collection is fresh and modern while still giving nods to Maplethope's personal style.