Discovering how Abe will Sacai-fy an idea from one season to the Saint Nicolas Cage Santa Christmas shirt besides I will buy this next is part of the pleasure of attending her shows (the spliced-up music is often another). If it seems she’s itching to experiment, she’s also still doing so within her own familiar framework. In this space, where constructive criticism is always encouraged, perhaps the last word belongs to The Dude, whose quote appears on another T-shirt this season. “Yeah, well, that’s your own opinion, then.” Immediately after the show, held in a 19th-century hay manger, we hacks clustered into a room below that had originally been a horse shelter, the better to gaze at this fully-fledged fashion thoroughbred—no, this seeming unicorn of fashion who had suddenly appeared before us. “That,” said Suzy Menkes, “was the best new-person collection I have ever seen.” Behind her, Pierre Rougier’s eyes widened at the compliment paid to his client by that most dauntless journalist, who has probably witnessed more collections than the rest of us put together. Sterling Ruby is certainly one of the most charming runway debutants ever—not at all up himself—and this collection was true of an outstanding standard for a first-timer. However, it must be conceded that while a new person at the end of a runway, Ruby comes to the game with credentials no other debut designer has ever possessed. For not only does he have 33 years of clothes-making experience (he first started with a sewing machine at age 13), but he is also an internationally renowned millionaire contemporary artist with a mighty aesthetic back-catalog to mine. Famously (at least in fashion), he was first collected by and then later became a friend of Raf Simons, with whom he collaborated recently for Calvin Klein (draw the veil), and also earlier for a 2014 Simons collection. As Ruby told W Magazine that year of his experience at the show: “Everybody was standing up, cheering. At that moment I thought, ‘Fuck being an artist—this is wonderful.’ ” Well, they are being sold by “specialist” Surf shops AS swimwear, so I suppose they are. Knowing the problems people have with relatively “conventional” bikinis where swimming’s concerned, I don’t think they’d be really suitable for anything other than the casual dip – doing laps might result in more time managing “wardrobe malfunctions” than spent swimming, and I gather from those who like this sort of thing that they aren’t that comfortable to really swim in anyhow.
Fast-forward to tonight—via a 2016 exhibition in London’s Sprüth Magers gallery of battered, bleached, dyed, and color-spattered denim—and Ruby has finally engineered his own wonderful moment. He is a manic, super-scale collagist, and as well as the Saint Nicolas Cage Santa Christmas shirt besides I will buy this many themes drawn from his own personal journey, there were echoes here of Simons in some silhouettes and also of Rick Owens’s meaningfully meditative primitivism, especially in the semi-rigid ponchos made of a patchwork of mixed materials that came piped with a sort of selvedge time-stamp to act as a mark of provenance. This was part of a careful dedication to captioning-by-label prevalent not only in Ruby’s gallery home world, but also in the work of Virgil Abloh (who was in attendance).