Raf Simons, inspired by Richey Edwards, Ian Curtis & Kraftwerk

15 Feb

Raf Simons

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

fw 1999 bert houbrechtsf/w 1998 ,Ph. Bert Houbrechts

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’.

F/W ’97


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.

Richey EdwardsRichey Edwards

Richey EdwardsRichey Edwards

Ian CurtisIan Curtis




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.

F/W ’99


In March 2000, Raf Simons shut down his company to take a sabbatical after his Fall-Winter 2000 collection (Confusion).

F/W 2000


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.

Raf Simons x Peter Saville

New Order record sleeve

Raf Simons & Peter Saville


What Raf Simons tells about the beginning     (2007)  I was born in this very small village in Belgium. It wasn't really a creative environment. In school, creating was kept away from young people. The village was so small there was no outlet except for one little record store. I think that is where it started for me-just picking up records. I'm 40 years old , so it was LPs. The first LP I ever bought—you're going to be shocked—was Bob Marley. Then I switched to Kraftwerk, Joy Division, and that kind of stuff. I was a bit dark at that time because I felt so isolated. But not only me, there were some other young people who felt that way. We loved to dress in black. I was growing up in the New Wave period, but that wasn't allowed in school. I remember moments when they wouldn't let four people dressed in black stand together on the playground. Then, before I graduated, I remember finding this book, and there was one page about industrial design. Basically, I ended up going to school for that. At that time there was a big boom going on with fashion in Belgium. The more I looked, the more I became interested. Before that I never even thought to become a fashion designer or anything like that. I started feeling that work when I was 19 years old, but I didn't do my first collection until I was 27. I wanted to finish my education in industrial design first. My parents are very holy to me. They never said, "You should do this," or "You should do that." My dad had to go in the army when he was 16, and he stayed there. My mom was a cleaning lady her whole life. The only thing they said to me was: "Take it seriously. Do what you what you believe in, but take it seriously." So the fourth year, I had to go for an internship. I went to Walter Van Beirendonck. I knocked on his door, and I was super scared-because I had nothing to do with fashion. But he was interested. He had absolutely zero interest in all of the fashion work I had faked to impress him. He just went straight to my industrial-design stuff. He said, "I really want you to come because, next to the fact that I am a fashion designer, I have this presentation in Paris and objects to make. I'm not a traditional designer." I ended up doing that with him, and he took me to Paris, and I saw my first show, which was the third show for Martin Margiela. Nothing else in fashion has had such a big impact on me. It was a show where half the audience cried, including myself. I was just like, "What! This is fashion?" Only at that point did I understand what fashion could be or what it could mean to people. It was the "white" show, where all the models wore dresses in white and transparent plastic. Margiela had no money at the time, so the Maison ended up going to a black neighborhood in Paris and asking if they could use a children's playground for the show. The parents said, "Yes, you can have the playground, but we want our children to be able to see it." So little black children were standing with the audience in the front row. The children started to run over to the models, and they picked them up and held them around their necks.



Book cover


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.






006-david-sims-and-raf-simons-theredlistPublisher: RAF SIMONS OFFICE
ISBN-10: 911036928
ISBN-13: 978-9110369283


Raf Simons

Info: Wikipedia & http://genius.com/Raf-simons-raf-simons-for-interview-magazine-lyrics

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