“The last time I saw Raf was at the after party held at the National Art Center, Tokyo on the mezzanine floor after the Jil Sander show in October 2011.” The Spring/Summer 2012 collection, which had already been shown in Milan, was presented in a joint women's and men's show.

“That night, I only exchanged a few words with Raf who was surrounded by many people. When I saw the knitwear with "Picasso’s face”, frankly speaking, I was quite surprised. In the past, there were examples of art being quoted or directly implemented in the clothes, such as the Mondrian look by Yves Saint Laurent. I believe that these examples were easy to integrate. On the other hand, what I really felt was that this kind of direct expression of combining art and mode did not need to be Raf and should be something left to others... “Why”? This is something I would still like to ask him if it were possible. After the show, I felt like I wanted to see something that had more "Raf-ness" to it and wasn’t such a straightforward approach."

While discussing this "Raf-ness," the conversation turned to a lecture she gave at Waseda University. She had been a part-time lecturer before she left Bunka Publishing Bureau in 2010, when she was the head of the magazine department and editorial director of HF. It was an omnibus class where professionals in specialized fields, such as architects and flower artists, were invited as guest lecturers every few weeks, under the keyword "the structural science of exposing and covering.“ The participants were mainly students from the School of Cultural Conceptualization, which offers lectures in a wide range of fields such as philosophy, sociology, journalism and butoh. Taguchi has been lecturing about fashion and fashion magazines as her main theme for the past five years.

“During that lecture, I often showed pages from "MR" and "HF" on the screen as visuals for the audience to see concrete examples, and sometimes I showed videos according to the content of the topic. For instance, I once showed a documentary on Paul Smith's daily travels between Paris and London and a video produced by Taro Horiuchi for the launch of his own collection. Then in 2012, for my last lecture, I decided without hesitation that I wanted the students to see the last Jil Sander collection by Raf, the women's runway show of Fall/Winter 2012-13.”

“I don't usually watch 15-minute shows on the computer until the end because there is so little to take in", Taguchi explained, "but I was deeply impressed by that specific show and watched it over and over again," while it brought back memories from 10 years ago. “From my five years of lecturing, I have learned that many students in the School of Culture and Design are able to see things in a multifaceted way, and I expected that they would find something either in the clothes themselves, the way the models walked, the hair and makeup, the equipment, the music, or the space. I also wanted to see how some of the students, who wore shabby t-shirts that had nothing to do with fashion, would react when confronted with this show, which to me was of the highest quality. If any of the 250 or so students became bored or yawned, I would stop the show and go back to the lecture, as I had discussed with my assistant at the time, and observe their reactions. Absolutely contrary to my concern, the dim classroom immediately became silent, and even the students who were about to doze off looked up and stared at the screen.”

In the review sheets that the students wrote and submitted after the lecture, some of them said they were moved to tears. “I was surprised by the unprecedented harmony of the clothes, music, space, and people's appearance," "I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the space," "It was as if I was watching a stage performance or a short film instead of clothes.” Taguchi remembers very well the pure and honest reactions from the students, who had probably never seen a fashion show before, expressing their excitement.

“The model with her hair pulled back resembling a ballerina, walked like a migrating fish as she passed through the pillar objects with flowers decor. A bustier dress with almost no detail, and a cashmere coat with no collar and only form, and with one hand clasped around the chest, an unforgettable gesture, reminded us of the ‘basics’ of Jil Sander. The colors were also noteworthy. As someone who disliked pink, I still wanted to wear that nude-pink. The pale blue, the black, the white, and the beige also could not be described as simple ‘light colors’. They were all uniquely extracted, deep, and attractive. What was expressed in that space with the thin straps and the transition of the chest only was not sexiness but a paradoxical element of elegance, solemnity or asceticism. I decided to play it at the end of the 90-minute lecture because I was convinced that this season's items, which embraced these things, were not special clothes like haute couture but something that would allow us to feel the ‘power of creation’. Raf spent a long time at Jil Sander to create ‘simplicity as a true luxury’, which cut down on ornamentation while preserving a lot of emotion inside. It may look cool but it resonates with only a few people internally. It is also something that is difficult to put into words... I hope that this collection will inspire the future fashion orientation for even a small percentage of the students, if not all of the audience.”

Taguchi took a Yutaka Haniya's book "The Black Horse in the Dark" (illustration by Tetsuro Komai), which she had picked up when she was 20 years old from her bookshelf. If I were to use this title to describe the qualities of Raf, I would phrase it as, “Can you see the black horse in the dark?“

“I think Raf was able to see through the various faces within Jil's simplicity. You could say it's a contemplative, thoughtful act. In Raf's first haute couture collection after moving to Dior, we can clearly see the “Monsieur Dior” shape with also the New Look, represented by ‘the mode of that era', which superposed with Raf's creations in a wonderful harmony. Or, perhaps, it can be said that Miuccia Prada's eyes saw the future of the brand and was convinced that Raf was the right person for the job and welcomed him as a person of the same quality. Opposed to the quantity of ‘numbers’, matching the depth of ‘quality’ begins when people of the same quality are called together. I think this is a theorem. This must have been the case with Raf and Jill. The unparalleled ‘Mode’ created in this way has also moved me to call upon it!”

Toshiko Taguchi

Born in 1949. Chief editor of MR High Fashion and High Fashion, now a freelance editor.