© Raf Simons
Born in 1968, Simons grew up outside of Antwerp in Neerpelt, close to the borders of Holland and Germany. Unique to fashion is that he studied industrial design in Genk, Belgium, graduated in furniture design but followed fashion from afar. When it came time for him to apply for an internship he sent a letter to designer Walter Van Beirendonck. Working in Paris with Van Beirendonck, Simons was exposed to the work of Martin Margiela and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Something clicked. But it was several years before he would act on it. After school he was especially working as furniture-designer for galleries and private interiors. He saved to move to Antwerp, where he met Linda Loppa, head of the fashion department at the Royal Academy of art. "Raf was already so determined, " Loppa says. "I was afraid after four years we would destroy his identity." She introduced Simons to her father, a prominent Belgian tailor, and Simons locked himself in his house: several months later he emerged with his first collection.
Although they are impeccably cut and created with love and care, clothes are not at the core of Simons' universe. More important are attitudes moods and statements. That's why music, art, performance, image and words have an important role in the whole package. Together with clothes, those elements sum up, or rather clarify the kind of world Raf Simons wants to project. In an attempt to examine today's men's and boyís psyches (and in the same take his own), he takes his inspiration from the rebellion of past and present youth cultures and blends this with notions of tradition and roots.
The most important message Raf Simons wants to communicate is: pride in individuality. No wonder then he has often voiced his concern about the rigid and doctorial stance of the mainstream fashion system. His clothes are both inspired by and designed for confident outsiders. His references to youth movements (punk, goth, mod, etc) are not meant to be retro; instead Simons tries to translate their energy and determination into modern statements about mental independence. Simons has many ways to avoid the trappings of the fashion system, most notably his choice of models. Disagreeing with the common images of male beauty and identity forwarded by most fashion magazines and advertising, Simons from the start of his career only used non-professional models, often scouted on the streets of Antwerp or other Belgian villages.
Simonsí aesthetics have proven highly influential. He is being cited as one of the most important innovators of menís wear by the international press. His clothes are available in shops around Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States and Russia.
Equally important to him are the collaborations he enjoyed with like-minded people from other creative fields. In 1999 he designed the men's line for the Italian Company Ruffo Research. Following his S/S 2000 collection, he published a book ('Isolated Heroes') of images acclaimed photographer David Sims made of his work. For the February 2001 issue of British style bible i-D, Raf Simons was invited as a special guest editor.
With Francesco Bonami (Museum of Modern Art Chicago), Raf Simons curated the exhibition 'The Fourth Sex'in Florence, Italy (January 2003). He also curated the exhibition 'Guides By Heroes' in Hasselt, Belgium, later that year where he showed his mental world, but lets the original protagonists shine in their own right.
2003 Swiss Textiles Award (Gwand Fashion Festival)
2000-2005 Teaches fashion at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.
where to buy:
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please call Raf Simonsí Commercial Department at
+32 (0)16 44 20 85