GC Magazine - Galleria Cavour

Raf Simons: biography of a talent

27 July - 2022

Alongside Miuccia Prada, he has signed, since 2020, the collections that we admire every day from the windows of the single-brand store present inside our spaces: Raf Jan Simons is the revelation designer of the moment.

He was born in Belgium in 1968. His origins appear very distant from the world of fashion since his father was a military man and his mother a housewife. It was his passion for electronic music, and later that for punk, that brought him closer to creativity and the fashion universe from a very young age, leading him to experiment with divergent and unconventional styles from an early age.

When the principal of the school he attended in Antwerp, Linda Loppa, advised him to abandon his career as an industrial designer and start devoting himself full-time to fashion he did not hesitate and in 1997 debuted on the catwalks with a line that still bears his name. The collection is influenced by Martin Margela, a fashion house that Simons himself looks up to with devotion and from which he drew inspiration for his first slim clothes with a rebellious style.

Critics were immediately won over by this young talent and his ability to reinterpret tailoring through a revolutionary, new wave gaze. It is no coincidence that one of the designer’s mantras is precisely “Be proud of your individuality.” Simons is a forerunner of the inclusivity that today’s catwalks proudly claim but that on its inception in the new millennium was decidedly less cool due to rigid and well-defined aesthetic canons.

His collections, on the other hand, are from the outset an ode to innovation and self-expression. Simons thus quickly became one of the new emerging fashion talents. It is not surprising, then, that as early as 2005 he was chosen by Jil Sander as the brand’s creative director. The definitive consecration, however, comes when Dior, orphaned by John Galliano, offers him to inherit the reins of the fashion house. Simons knows that if he really wants to leave an imprint of himself, he has to depart from his predecessor in a radical way: he thus leads the French house in a direction opposite to Galliano’s, returning to his origins and to an elegant and decidedly more sober minimalism.

In his debut show he pays homage to the passion Monsieur Dior had for flowers by setting up the runway with a million orchids and roses. The creative challenge is met to such an extent that Frédéric Tcheng presents a documentary dedicated to him and titled “Dior and I” at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York where he recounts precisely the genesis of Simons’ first collection for the Parisian fashion house. The designer, however, loves a challenge and after leading Dior to increase sales by 60 percent he decides to dive into new adventures.

He lands first at Calvin Klein and finally at the court of Prada. Here, from 2020, he marks a creative partnership alongside Miuccia that leads him, in a very short time, to receive the British Fashion Council‘s prestigious Fashion Awards for the Creativity category. He rewrites Prada’s codes with inspirations linked to the punk of the 1980s so dear to him and succeeding in the not easy task of merging his own rebellious nature with the rigor and subtraction that has always been the symbol of the Milanese house. The combination proves to be a winner, consecrating this talent in the firmament of international fashion.