An influential powerhouse whose fandom spans cult fashion-heads and US rappers alike, Raf Simons has inspired countless generations of design talent with his prophetic menswear. Drawing from art, design, pop culture and the music of his youth, the Belgian designer has spent the better half of three decades toying with menswear in all of its totalitarian and minimalistic machinations, with today marking his 54th birthday. But before we bust out the candles and light a cake, we thought we’d take a trip into the former-furniture maker’s coveted archive, and revisit the collections that positioned him as a true cultural icon.
Raf Simons FW04 ‘Closer’
Simons’ FW04 offering was an ode to Peter Saville. Taking its name from the final album of Mancunian post-punk outfit, Joy Division, Closer spotlights the graphic artist’s unrivalled approach to design across the Factory Records catalogue, predominantly concerning itself with the artist’s work for both Joy Division and New Order (formed by the remaining Joy Division members after frontman Ian Curtis took his life). With unfettered access to the entire Saville archive (the first time any designer was granted such a privilege), Simons’ olive green, hand-painted Power, Corruption and Lies parka remains an iconic standout.
CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC SS18
CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC, SS18
Though Simons kept his tenure at the iconic American fashion brand short and sweet, his eyes never left the prize for a minute. Within months of his appointment to the house, he had already launched a sensual new Eau de Parfum, landed Solange, Blood Orange, Kelela and the entire Kardashian crew in campaigns sporting the signature sheeny cowboy shirts of his SS18 collection, and even christened the label with a lengthy new name. Boasting graphic Warhol artworks, oversized cheerleading pom-poms and blood-spattered outerwear, the aforementioned runway was a masterclass in the highs and lows of American culture that’ll live on in the history books.
Raf Simons FW02 ‘Virginia Creeper’
Virginia Creeper, AW02
Puffy Matrix trenches, cosy varsity jackets, bondage coats and flouncy rain macs, Virginia Creeper had it all. As the posterchild for dramatic outerwear, Simons’ palette of botanical greens and oceanic blues is quite literally the stuff of dreams. Where else could patent leather gilets and chunky argyle knits coalesce in such harmony? We’re not sure, but god do we hope it makes a re-emergence at Prada…
Read about Raf Simons’ co-creative Prada role, here.
Raf Simons FW99 ‘Kinetic Youth’
Kinetic Youth, FW99
Simons’ punk ethos took a backseat at his FW99 collection. Pulling the label up by the bootstraps, the designer’s objective was to bring formalwear to the youth of the late 90s with sleeveless button-downs or loose, breezy trousers, all while toying with rigid tailoring. Smouldering in their slinky suitage, models swooped past the front row in a mix of dramatic dusters, baggy knits, sheeny bomber jackets in electric baby blue and soft leather pants that evoked the uniform of a sweaty warehouse raver. Happy hardcore? You betcha.
Raf Simons SS03 ‘Consumed’
Huge collage mounted vest tops. Jackets the sum of only their seams and appendages, missing whole chunks of fabric, save for pockets and collars. One poncho was simply a black fishing net. Welcome to Simons’ SS03 collection, a pseudo-apocalyptic reframing of consumer culture that made motifs of the Playstation logo and fashioned old beer cans into shiny accessories and the stage upon which the collection took place. This was Raf gearing us up for a reality we’re very much in the thick of.
Happy Birthday, Raf…