In his esteemed and long career in fashion, Raf Simons has demonstrated a fairly impeccable catalogue of influences. His clothes have referenced Kraftwerk, Le Corbusier’s furniture designer Jean Prouvé and the 1981 German arthouse movie Christiane F. Also, the lyrics of Leonard Cohen, the cinematography of Alfred Hitchcock and the still lifes of Flemish Renaissance painter Jan Brueghel the Elder. Yet rarely has a connection been made between Simons’s work and Peanuts.
“It makes me think of Linus,” says Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster, London, referring to Linus van Pelt, Charlie Brown’s blanket-wielding best mate. Groves is talking about Simons’s recently launched retail platform, “History of My World” — a new departure selling candles, books and homewear. Most notably, a set of 45 wool blankets. An instant sell-out, each blanket was unique, hand-made and featured typically Simonsian adornments of pin badges and printed patches. They featured pop-youth slogans like “Teenage Dreams” or “Children of the Revolution”, alongside vintage childhood photos sourced from his team members.
“Raf Simons is always about comfort and teenage attitudes,” Groves says. “It speaks to nostalgia, and youth and safety. For that, a blanket is the perfect object.”
As more designers expand from clothes and accessories into decorative objects (the luxury e-tailer Ssense recently added the category “Everything Else” after “Menswear” and “Womenswear” to cover off Gucci AirPod cases, The Elder Statesman pillows etc), fancy blankets make sense. They’re timely, too. Wrap up under one during lockdown! Host a celebratory picnic on top of one after! They also provide a blank canvas, almost literally, onto which labels can project their identities and ideas.
During its most recent menswear show, one Dior model strode down the catwalk carrying a blanket under his left arm, emblazoned with a painting of a lion by the artist and collection collaborator Peter Doig. Loewe uses traditional makers in Asia, Africa and South America to produce cashmere-leather blankets featuring the brand’s 1970s “Anagram” logo. (It also sells hybrid “blanket shirts” complete with tasselled fringing.) The label Ashish has produced a multicoloured blanket embroidered with the legend “Everything is Going to Be Okay”. Very 2021. Arguably related is a collaboration between the highbrow architect John Pawson and the textile company Tekla. Its blankets are inspired by the “natural beauty” of Pawson’s home in the Oxfordshire countryside.
APC has been in this game longer than most. For this spring’s APC Quilts Round 19, a collab with the designer Jessica Ogden, it has produced a line inspired by the architecture of its shops. There’s even an “Albert” cushion, named because Albert Camus lived across the street from where the brand’s women’s shop in Paris now stands. Groves says there is historical precedent for blankets in menswear: 19th-century military greatcoats were made of hefty blanket-like material, as were the Hudson Bay blanket coats of the 1930s. More recently (the 1980s), labels Stone Island and CP Company produced blankets alongside their technical trousers and terracefriendly outerwear.
Groves can see their appeal in 2021. “We’re wearing things for longer, especially when we’ve spent so much time at home,” he says. “Now, it’s about the quality of things, rather than what they mean to anyone else. And that’s a very menswear thing, isn’t it? A suit looks like a suit, but the wearer understands the amazing quality of the material. How it feels. That idea of something for comfort, something you can lean on, that’s multi-purpose. I think it’s feeding into that as well.”
Or, as Linus van Pelt put it: “This blanket is a necessity. It keeps me from cracking up. It may be regarded as a spiritual tourniquet.”
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