From Raf Simons to Supreme: New Order and Peter Saville's Fashion History
From Raf Simons to Supreme: New Order and Peter Saville's Fashion History
- Words Tristen Harwood
- Date July 12, 2019
Whether you’re a full-on fashion nerd or just starting out on your personal style journey, it’s necessary that you get familiar with Raf Simons’ seminal Fall/Winter 2003 collection, “Closer”. Noteworthy for the collection’s fishtail parkas, the decade-defining garments feature hand-painted images of album artwork by legendary graphic designer, Peter Saville, including New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) and Technique (1989), along with Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (1979). The title of the show, “Closer”, is borrowed from Joy Division’s album of the same name—after the death of Ian Curtis (Joy Division’s lead singer) the band went on to become New Order—the show’s title exemplifies the impact music can have on fashion. Simons’ collection embodies this thesis.
It may seem too abstract (or archival) when looking exclusively at Simons’ fan-favorite Fall/Winter 2003 collection, but New Order and Saville’s iconic album artworks have had a poignant influence across the style spectrum, inflecting the designs of other major labels including Undercover and Supreme.
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Like the punk groups that preceded British Post-Punk/New Wave bands Joy Division and New Order, image and style were equally important to sound in cultivating the two bands’ respective identities. While Punk was about aggressive, cut-up styling and antagonistic imagery—think the swastikas and crucifixes on the distressed Seditionaries tops worn by The Sex Pistols—the Post-Punk aesthetic, as refined by Saville at Factory Records, was more minimal and sombre.
Where Punk was iconoclastic, Post-Punk drew on the morbidity of history. This is no clearer than Saville’s album art for Closer in 1980. Released shortly after Ian Curtis took his own life, the album uses a Bernard Pierre Wolff’s photograph of Demetrio Paernio’s 1910 sculpture of a grieving family. The effect naturally visualizes the sense of tragedy surrounding the album’s release.
Movement (1981) was New Order’s first release under its new band name and with the addition of Gillian Gilbert on keyboard. The album’s sound is at a crucial disjuncture between the dark, angular, melodic Post-Punk sound of Joy Division and the electro, pop-oriented New Wave sound for which New Order was later known.
The album art designed by Saville—who, while not a member of the band was crucial to the visual legacy of New Order’s albums—is based on a poster by Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero and uses bold blue lines to form the letter “F” for Factory Records and horizontal borders that encase the band name and album title. The album art from Movement can been seen on T-shirts and other garments produced by Simons for his Spring/Summer 2018 collection.
Of course, Simons’ preoccupations with Saville and New Order don’t stem from Saville’s work in fashion, but from the potency of the imagery Saville created to visually ground New Order’s music. In an interview with The Talks, Simons speaks of the impact of seeing the artwork for New Order’s second album Power, Corruption & Lies had on him saying: “One of the first things I picked up when I was very, very young out of a record store was work from Peter Saville…I picked up things because of the imagery”.
The album artwork is a reproduction of Realist Henri Fantin-Latour’s 1890 painting, “A Basket of Roses”. It is one of the six Factory Records album covers that Simons had hand-painted on the backs of the iconic parkas from his “Closer’” collection. Simons was given access to Saville’s design archive and collaborated with him for the collection. Rather than attempting to recreate the sentiment of New Wave music through mood and styling, he took a literal approach, incorporating Saville’s designs directly into the collection. In addition to the iconic parkas, a number of other garments feature artwork from Saville’s time at Factory records.
Along with the artwork from Power, Corruption & Lies, the show also used the artwork from New Order’s fifth album, Technique (1989). The album, partly recorded in Ibiza, has a decidedly more dance sound than New Order’s earlier work and incorporates elements of Balearic Beat and Acid House.
It wasn’t a random jump for Saville to work in fashion with Simons. Prior to Simons incorporating his album artwork in 2003, Saville had already worked extensively in fashion. He created catalogs and imagery for Yohji Yamamoto. The Fall/Winter 1987–1988 catalog Saville produced for Yamamoto, compliments the designer’s preoccupation with black clothing and angular cuts, featuring silhouetted human figures and black and white photography, which recalls the album artwork for New Order’s then-recently released third studio album, Low Life (1985).
Saville also worked with Jil Sander to create the designer’s 1990 advertising campaign. Set across a two-page magazine spread, the campaign image uses a black and white photograph of a model contrasted with a solid red vertical block and simple Jil Sander branding, taking up almost equal space to the photograph.
A horizontal bar in a similar red also appears across the front of New Order’s Get Ready (2007) album artwork by Saville, the band’s first album after an eight year hiatus. Band member Peter Hook has suggested that the title of the album signalled a new phase in the band’s musical life. Less of a direct professional connection and more of a fanatical one, Saville (himself a noted Helmut Lang fan, often be seen wearing one of his four pairs of identical white Helmut Lang jeans) used a photograph of a model wearing a torn T-shirt and Helmut Lang Painter Jeans for the album artwork.
Beyond Simons, music, particularly the Punk flavors of Joy Division and the New Wave of New Order, has played a significant role in the visual aesthetic of Jun Takahashi’s Undercover. From the cut-up, distressed and patched pieces from his Spring/Summer 2003 “Scab” collection, to his imaginary record label Undercover Records, which produces graphic T-shirts for fantasy bands and the label’s “We Make Noise Not Clothes” refrain.
Takahashi’s Fall/Winter 2009 collection faintly reinterprets an image of surging radio waves designed by Saville for Joy Division’s iconic debut album Unknown Pleasures—some the most obviously identifiable and overly reprinted album art around. Undercover also produced coach jackets featuring lyrics from “She’s Lost Control”, off the same album. The use of lyrics by Takahashi is a departure from Simons’ relatively strict coherence to using images from the album artwork and packaging.
Never a brand to shy away from collaboration and pop culture references, Supreme also reproduced a run of products featuring Saville’s iconic graphics, drawing more on the visual appeal of his designs than the mood they convey as accompaniments to music. Supreme took the Unknown Pleasures wavelength imagery, enlarging what was originally a diminutive graphic on the album cover to full-body size across the entirety of a T-shirt. Supreme also used Saville’s artwork for New Order’s classic 1983 single “Blue Monday” back during the Spring/Summer 2005 season, working the coded color block pattern as a back print for a T-shirt. The most well-known example however is Supreme’s 2013’s use of the Power, Corruption & Lies cover—recalling Simons use back in Fall/Winter 2003. Rather than keep the artwork at a scale and shape similar to an album cover like Simons, Supreme made it into an all-over print hoodie, T-shirt and two Vans sneakers models.
Not to be outstripped, Simons revisited Saville’s archive in his Spring/Summer 2018 collection, which pays tribute to the eminent graphic designer, as well as Simons’ own collection, “Closer”. New Order and Joy Division graphics feature heavily throughout the show, not just on the usual items like T-shirts and sweaters, but also accenting unusual items like lanterns and. Like 2003’s “Closer”, Spring/Summer 2018 continues Simons’ fixation with youth culture. The mood, which draws on Blade Runner as well as unique styling, is cut-up, re-worked and heavily layered. It imbues the collection with a post-apocalyptic, truly contemporary, sensibility that is not present in his more direct homages in the “Closer” collection.
This introspection comes at a fitting time for New Order as it prepares to release a forthcoming live album Σ(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes…. Rather than compose a collection of new songs New Order, like Simons in his designs, is re-visiting it back-catalogue, breathing life back into its old classics. That’s a fitting way to think about how brands across the style spectrum have reworked Saville’s artwork for the pioneering Punk and New Wave bands—creating new fashion masterpieces as respected as the music that inspired the designers in the first place.