Saturday, November 17, 2012

Raf Simons

 Current Creative Director at Christian Dior.
He currently lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium and Paris, France.

Early career

Raf Simons was born on 12 January 1968 in Neerpelt, in the province of Limburg, Belgium, to a soldier and a house cleaner.
Simons graduated in Industrial Design and Furniture Design from a college in Genk during 1991. He began working as a furniture designer for various galleries, having previously interned at the design studio of Walter Van Beirendonck between 1991-1993.
Van Beirendonck took him to Paris Fashion Week and that was when Simons first saw a fashion show - Martin Margiela’s all-white show in 1991 - which inspired Simons to turn to fashion design.

Raf Simons label

Encouraged by Linda Loppa, head of the fashion department at the Antwerp Royal Academy, Simons became a self-trained menswear designer and launched his Raf Simons label in 1995.
His first collection was in Fall-Winter 1995, and featured two street models in a video presentation. From Fall-Winter 1995 to Spring-Summer 1997, Simons' collections were shown either in presentations or videos. Fall-Winter 1997 saw his first runway show in Paris, France with a look of 'American college students and English schoolboys with a background of New Wave and Punk'.
Simons' early aesthetic incorporated youth culture from divergent sources, such as the Spring-Summer 2000 collection taking inspiration from both MENSA students and the Gabba youth subculture (a predominantly Dutch and Belgian movement associated with hardcore techno music). Music has formed an integral part of Simons’ work, with references to musical figures such as the Manic Street Preachers's Richey Edwards and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and his Fall-Winter 1998 collection (Radioactivity) featuring members of German electo band Kraftwerk as models.
In March 2000, Simons shut down his company to take a sabbatical, following his Fall-Winter 2000 collection (Confusion). Following a new deal with Belgian manufacturer, Gysemans Clothing Industry, the company was started back up again for Fall-Winter 2001. During this time, Simons' international prominence grew with the collection for Spring-Summer 2002 (Woe Onto Those Who Spit On The Fear Generation...The Wind Will Blow It Back) becoming one of his most influential due to its 'layered, hooded, sinister image of the urban guerrilla'.
In 2003, Simons received the Swiss Textiles Award, receiving material benefits at the value of 100,000 euros.
The company was restructured in October 2004 with a distribution deal with Futurenet (Europe and USA) and Mitsui (Asia), followed by a license agreement with Futurepresent (joint-venture of Futurenet and Mitsui Italia). This deal came to an end with the Spring-Summer 2011 collection.
The aesthetic of the Raf Simons brand has changed since 2005, as former Arena Homme Plus editor Jo-Ann Furniss asserts: "The key turning point was A/W 04-05 (Waves), when the obsessive youth culture codes of his past were turned into clothes that were purely about shape and form."
In June 2005, Raf by Raf Simons was launched, which was sold at a lower price point. Simons also released the book Raf Simons: Redux about the first 10 years of his career. Alongside the publication, there was also an exhibition of Simons' work and an outdoor fashion show at the Pitti Immagine Uomo tradeshow in Florence, Italy for a retrospective of the designer's career at the age of 38.
In 2008, two flagship Raf Simons stand-alone stores opened in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, in collaboration with the artists Sterling Ruby and Roger Hiorns.
Autumn-Winter 2009 saw the first Raf Simons advertising campaign, photographed by Willy Vanderperre.
In 2011, Raf by Raf Simons was replaced by Raf Simons 1995, a diffusion line incorporating elements from Simons' early collections. Raf Simons 1995 also includes homeware, namely blankets and cushions.
All Raf Simons press is managed by PR Consulting, Paris and New York.


Since 2008, Simons has created collections in collaboration with British brand Fred Perry. From Spring-Summer 2008 onwards, Simons has collaborated with Linda Farrow on a collection of sunglasses for the brand. Since Fall-Winter 2009, Simons has also collaborated with running shoe manufacturer Asics.
Simons designed three collaborations with French bag manufacture Eastpak: Spring-Summer 2008, Fall-Winter 2008 and Spring-Summer 2009.
In 2009, Simons used denim bleached by artist Sterling Ruby to create a capsule collection of denim wear jeans and jackets.

Jil Sander A.G.

In June 2005 Simons was appointed as Creative Director for the Jil Sander label, by its owner the Prada Group (which was later acquired by Change Capital Partners and then GIBO Co. SpA, the Italian subsidiary of Japanese firm Onward Holdings Co. Ltd). This marked the first occasion when the designer had created women's clothing and accessories, whilst also designing the brand's male collections.
During his tenure at Jil Sander, Simons moved the brand's aesthetic from an austere minimalism and expanded its commercial appeal with the creation of a womenswear diffusion line, Jil Sander Navy. In 2010, Simons’s work was seen to take a more fanciful turn when he presented the first of three couture-inspired collections, all of which played with the shapes, colors, and proportions associated with haute couture, and were his most feminine to date.
Simons' last collection for Jil Sander was Fall-Winter 2012, following his dismissal by Onward Holdings in favour of Jil Sander's return. The collection was critically acclaimed and unusually received a standing ovation.

Christian Dior S.A.

In April 2012, it was announced that Simons would replace Bill Gaytten as Creative Director at the helm of Dior, ending a period of transition after John Galliano's dismissal as Creative Director. Simons currently designs both the women's ready-to-wear and haute couture collections - the first time he has designed the latter. The designer also oversees all accessories, make-up, promotion and store design.  However, he does not design the menswear collections, as fellow Belgian designer Kris van Assche remained as Dior Homme creative director.
Simons' first collection for Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2012 was critically acclaimed, as the designer focused on the 1950s by playing with some of Christian Dior’s famous silhouettes: the A line and the H line, and the Bar jacket.

Other interests

Since 2000, Simons has acted as a consultant for the Cigrang Freres art collection in Belgium. He also collects art personally, with his private collection including works by Evan Holloway, Mike Kelley, Sterling Ruby and Brian Calvin. Between October 2000 and June 2005, Simons taught fashion at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, leaving due his growing commitments to the Jil Sander brand.
He has curated a number of exhibitions including: Guided by Heroes in Hasselt, Belgium and The Fourth Sex in Florence, Italy. An accompanying publication to the former was released in 2003, which was edited by Simons and Francesco Bonami. In 2011, Simons also curated the three-day exhibition and event The Avant/Garde Diaries: Transmission1 in collaboration with Mercedes Benz, featuring the work of Peter Saville, Konstantin Grcic, Peter de Potter and These New Puritans.
The designer has collaborated with a number of artists in both his eponymous collections and for Jil Sander, including Franky Claeys (Raf Simons Spring-Summer 1998 Black Palms) and Peter Saville (Raf Simons Fall-Winter 2003 Closer); His designs have also featured the work of Pablo Picasso (Jil Sander Spring-Summer 2012) and Brian Calvin (Raf Simons Fall-Winter 2012 Run Fall Run).
Long-term collaborators include photographer Willy Vanderperre, first assistant/general manager Robbie Sneders, stylist Olivier Rizzo and artist Peter de Potter. During June 1996, Raf Simons participated at the 2001 (-3) exhibition, curated by Terry Jones, during Biennale della Moda, Florence. The photography series and book Isolated Heroes was the result of the collaboration with British photographer David Sims in the summer of 1999, which featured models dressed in Raf Simons Spring-Summer 2000. Isolated Heroes was a travelling exhibition during 2000-01.
In February 2001, the designer was a special guest editor of i-D Magazine, no. 206 - The Inspiration Issue - featuring a cover photographed by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Olivier Rizzo.

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