From the beginning of Raf Simons' tenure as creative officer at Calvin Klein — a role he undertakes in tandem with heading up his namesake label — the designer indicated a commitment to a re-wiring of the Calvin Klein marketing machine. In his previous role at Dior, the Belgian designer brought the French fashion house to the forefront of modernity with his innovative approaches to design across ready-to-wear, accessories and haute couture. Prior to his appointment at the Parisian house, Simons spent seven years as creative director for Jil Sander .
Simons originally graduated in Industrial Design and Furniture Design in 1991, going on to work as a furniture designer for various galleries. Encouraged by Linda Loppa , head of the fashion department at the Antwerp Royal Academy, the self-taught Belgian designer launched the Raf Simons label, which began as a youth culture line, in 1995. Today, innovation, modernity and individuality remain core tenets of his menswear line, and the creative fusion of the arts the Raf Simons brand is known for — music, performance and art has always played a substantial role in the designer's creative process — is an approach he has replicated at the different houses he has headed up. In 2008, two flagship Raf Simons standalone stores opened in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, in collaboration with the artists Sterling Ruby and Roger Hiorns. Since then, Simons has created collaborative collections with Fred Perry, Asics, Adidas and Linda Farrow .
In June 2005 Simons was appointed the creative director of Jil Sander, receiving industry-wide acclaim for his minimalist work at the German label. The diffusion line Jil Sander Navy was launched during his tenure.
Simons left Jil Sander in time for his appointment to Dior in April 2012, replacing Bill Gaytten as creative director and ending a period of transition after John Galliano 's dismissal from the role. During his time at the house, Simons established his own modern yet elegant take on Dior’s archive of classic silhouettes. In 2015, Simons cast Rihanna as the first black face of the house; the same year, "Dior & I" — a documentary by Frédéric Tcheng exploring the house's couture atelier and the creation of Simon's first Haute Couture collection at Dior — was released to rave reviews.
In October 2015, he stepped down from his position at Dior to shift his focus to his Raf Simons label. It wasn’t until the following August, after ongoing industry speculation, that the designer was officially announced as chief creative officer of Calvin Klein. Relocating to New York, Simons is now tasked with leading the creative vision at the iconic American brand, where his debut collection for the label received critical acclaim.
Simons has been honoured with the Swiss Textiles Award, which he received in November 2003, and the 2011 presidency of the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography jury. In 2017 he was awarded both the Menswear Designer of the Year and Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, and the following year he won the Womenswear Designer of the Year again. In October 2000 the designer was named head professor of the Fashion Department at Vienna's University of Applied Arts, a position he held until June 2005. He also presented a retrospective installation — "Florence Calling: Raf Simons" — at Pitti Uomo in June 2016.