Woe Onto Those Who Spit on the Fear Generation – A Militant Search for Identity through Youth

I continue to look at some of my favorite collections from designer Raf Simons by looking at his most famous collection: 

Raf Simon’s Spring Summer 2002 collection, “Woe Onto Those Who Spit on the Fear Generation…the Wind Will Blow it Back” is framed within a post 9/11 modern condition. A cultural atmosphere of political tension, religious paranoia, and a fear of global militarism set the frame for “Woe onto Those…” You could make the argument that this collection is solely about exploring the aesthetics of guerrilla militarism and terrorism in our global consciousness. The models wear head wrappings to obscure their identity, brandish loud, politically charged graphic designs, and embody both flowing and linear silhouettes. “Woe onto Those…” captures a fear of the obscured, the unknown and moreover the political youth radical – a fear that embodies the 21st century. Yet, I find this to be an incomplete reading of this collection. “Woe onto Those…” is a collection of understanding, not fear. 

To me, “Woe onto those…” represents a youthful search of identity through slogan, through manifesto, perhaps even through homogeny rather than militancy and radicalism. I find that Raf’s work treats youth subculture with love not with fear. It is the realization that all those searching for identity do not necessarily want to become militant. In our search for identity we all search for “determination, resistance, hope, nature, wanderlust, humility, visibility, organization and light.” Sometimes as we search for ourselves and try to find beauty in life, we are confronted with the horror of reality. We can then easily find solace in radicalism. We can hide ourselves in a shield of radicalism, protecting our sense of self from the outside world. In a way, we can become an ideology rather than an individual. On the other hand, we can also embrace radicalism just for a love of aesthetic purity rather than a yearning to become an active radical. Raf understands this. I find “Woe Onto Those…” acts both as an elegant, sympathetic acknowledgement and warning of a youth’s search for identity.

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