Raf Simons is a Belgian fashion designer. Beginning in furniture design, he launched his own menswear label in 1995. In April 2012 he was announced as the creative director at Christian Dior.
Raf Simons was born on 12 January 1968 in Neerpelt, in the province of Limburg, Belgium, to an army night watchman (Jacques Simons) and a house cleaner (Alda Beckers).
Simons graduated in Industrial Design and Furniture Design from a college in Genk during 1991. During this time, Simons congregated at Antwerp cafe Witzli-Poetzli with the likes of Olivier Rizzo, Willy Vanerperre, David Vandewal and then-girlfriend Veronique Branquinho to discuss fashion, namely Hemut Lang and Martin Margiela.
He began working as a furniture designer for various galleries, having previously interned at the design studio of Walter Van Beirendonck between 1991-1993. Van Beirendonck took him to Paris Fashion Week and that was when Simons first saw a fashion show — Martin Margiela’s all-white show in 1991 — which inspired Simons to turn to fashion design.
Encouraged by Linda Loppa, head of the fashion department at the Antwerp Royal Academy, Simons 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. From Fall-Winter 1995 to Spring-Summer 1997, 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'.
Simons' early aesthetic incorporated youth culture from divergent 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 Simons’ 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 electo band Kraftwerk as models.
In March 2000, Simons shut down his company to take a sabbatical after his Fall-Winter 2000 collection (Confusion). Following a new deal with Belgian manufacturer, Gysemans Clothing Industry, the company was started back up again for Fall-Winter 2001. During this time, Simons' international prominence grew with the collection for Spring-Summer 2002 (Woe Onto Those Who Spit On The Fear Generation...The Wind Will Blow It Back) becoming one of his most influential due to its 'layered, hooded, sinister image of the urban guerrilla'.
In 2003, Simons received the Swiss Textiles Award, receiving material benefits at the value of 100,000 euros. The company was restructured in October 2004 with a distribution deal with Futurenet (Europe and USA) and Mitsui (Asia), followed by a license agreement with Futurepresent (joint-venture of Futurenet and Mitsui Italia). This deal came to an end with the Spring-Summer 2011 collection.
The aesthetic of the Raf Simons brand has changed since 2005, as former Arena Homme Plus editor Jo-Ann Furniss asserts: "The key turning point was A/W 04-05 (Waves), when the obsessive youth culture codes of his past were turned into clothes that were purely about shape and form."
In June 2005, Raf by Raf Simons was launched, which was sold at a lower price point. Simons also released the book Raf Simons: Redux about the first 10 years of his career. Alongside the publication, there was also an exhibition of Simons' work and an outdoor fashion show at the Pitti Immagine Uomo tradeshow in Florence, Italy for a retrospective of the designer's career at the age of 38.
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Creative Director April 2012 - Present, Paris, France
Designer 1994 - Present, Antwerp, Belgium
June 2005 - April 2012