Raf Simons was born on 12 January 1968 in Neerpelt, Belgium, to an army night watchman (Jacques Simons) and a house cleaner (Alda Beckers).
Raf graduated in Industrial Design and Furniture Design from a college in Genk in 1991. He began working as a furniture designer for various galleries, having previously interned at the design studio of fashion designer Walter Van Beirendock (who was part of the original wave of Belgium designers, the Antwerp Six) between 1991-1993, working on the interior design of the showroom.
Van Beirendonck took him to Paris fashion week and that was when Raf first saw a fashion show — Martin Margiela’s all-white show in 1991 — which inspired him to turn to fashion design.
Raf Simons label
Encouraged by Linda Loppa, head of the fashion department at the Antwerp Royal Academy, Raf 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.
f/W ’95, Raf Simons first collection
From Fall-Winter 1995 to Spring-Summer 1997, Raf 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’.
Raf’s early aesthetic incorporated youth culture from different 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 his 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 electro band Kraftwerk as models.
f/W ’98 part 1
f/W ’98 part 2
I attended the f/w ’99 catwalk show myself and it was pretty impressing. This was the collection Raf Simons presented his spectacular long black capes.
In March 2000, Raf Simons shut down his company to take a sabbatical after his Fall-Winter 2000 collection (Confusion).
Raf Simons x Peter Saville
For his Fall/Winter 2003 collection, Raf Simons was granted full access to the archives of Peter Saville, a living legend known for his graphic design work, much of which takes the form of record sleeves. Saville started art school in the mid-1970′s and then began working with Factory Records shortly thereafter. A partner in the Manchester-based label, as well as its artistic director, Saville was tasked with the creation of the Factory artists’ record sleeves, although he got his start designing posters for The Haçienda nightclub, which was run by the label. Inspired by Kraftwerk, a German electronic music band formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970 and a favorite of Raf Simons, and their Autobahn album sleeve, Saville went on to design the sleeves for Joy Division and New Order, among others. Rarely given any direction from bands regarding the artwork, Saville says, ”I was left to my own devices … I never had to answer to anyone.” This was especially true given the “non-commercially structured” nature of Factory, which “allowed us to make statements that we believed in and wanted to make, without much compromise,” said Saville.
Isolated Heroes by Raf Simons & David Sims (photography)
The series of photographs, collected under the banner ‘Isolated Heroes’, are the result of the collaboration British photographer David Sims and Belgian menswear designer Raf Simons undertook in the summer of 1999. Featured on the pictures are Raf Simons’ models, dressed in his collection for Spring-Summer 2000.
Each boy is credited with a serial number and his own first name. ‘Isolated Heroes’ contains both black and white and colour photographs. Originally intended as a work-in-progress, Sims’ photographs of Simons’ models soon became a body of work in it’s own right. The photographs of ‘Isolated Heroes’ were never intended for mere promotional purposes. They even transcend more traditional fashion photography, as they reach for a timeless quality, devoid of signs of the times or traces of trendiness.
The ‘Isolated Heroes’-project deals with beauty, youth, masculinity and the perfect isolation of all these preoccupations. Sims and Simons share the same notions of aesthetics: honest, untouched, pure and real. Not one of the portrayed boys in ‘Isolated Heroes’ is a professional model. They are either too ‘strange’ or too ‘ordinary’ to fit the mold of supermodels. Yet, through the eyes of Sims and Simons, they are made visible, without the aid of gimmicks or theatrical enhancements. ‘Isolated Heroes’ is a sequence of faces and expressions, mindful boys and stern young men, their gaze fixed. They express nothing but their own personality.
The photographs don’t make them more beautiful, as in traditional (fashion) portraiture; each face is a peaceful vindication of modern perception of beauty, a resolute alternative to the clichÈd glorification of male strength. In narrowing the close-up on the faces, Sims and Simons have created portraits in an almost classical sense. The images evoke memories of Classical-Greek statues and postures, further enhanced with lighting, clear backdrop and focus.
Info: Wikipedia & http://genius.com/Raf-simons-raf-simons-for-interview-magazine-lyrics