If you’re under 40, your first Raf Simons bar is very likely to be your first cup (or vice versa). I remember what I had: I was shopping at a second-hand store in Soho in 2016, when I came across two (TWO!!!) Raf Simons sweatshirts from the Spring 2014 collection, when he went super-pop and printed crisp upbeat phrases I felt pulled from magazine ads. In the 1950s on polyester tunics and shirts. They were on sale for $50 (obviously no one in the store knew what they had on them; I’ve seen the pieces on Grailed for $400). I remember the definite thrill of discovery and the excitement I felt at owning these pieces of menswear history that may be recognizable to very few.
I’ve had an Alaia jacket for $300 and a Never Made Hood By Air jacket for $150, but these are the pieces that are most special to me. This is the charm of the cool, intense and seductive Raf Simons brand.
Simmons shocked the fashion industry yesterday when he announced that his label, which he launched 27 years ago, would be closing. There will be no fanciful fanfare or set finale; Spring 2023 shows that his stay in London in October (rescheduled from London Fashion Week following the Queen’s death) will simply be his last. “I lack words to share with you how proud I am of all that we have accomplished,” the Instagram announcement read.
When I contacted David Casavant, a Simons specialist and one of the menswear archivists’ most prolific archivists, he was surprised, though he admits, “I’ve really given up on surprising or expressing a lot of emotion.” [into] Things that happen with fashion because it’s always changing”.
He’s right—Simmons will remain in his role as co-creative director at Prada, his influence only getting stronger with each collection. But the Simmons brand represents a lot of fashion beginnings, especially for menswear, as it begins increasingly big shifts in the industry. (Simmons himself charted the menswear pipeline from inside out to women: he hooked up at Jil Sander, then Christian Dior, then he took over at Calvin Klein, and now, of course, he hooked up at Prada.) The mid-1990s saw the introduction of slim tailoring, and it was remarkable from the start for its focus on menswear alone. The clothes weren’t just for men, they were meant for them. They were cold and precise in their lines, but they were much about sentiment—the kind of misplaced, inextricable anger that often seems to accompany young manhood. You can always feel a tingle of emotion or walk under those clean, tight silhouettes. He made it clear that designing menswear, without the women’s business float, is important.
Simons was also the designer who, along with Helmut Lang and Hedi Slimane, inspired the idea of treating clothes as collectible objects. It’s hard to imagine Grailed or fashion’s transformation into a pop cultural phenomenon at the hands of rappers like A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar—or even the archival fashion movement currently sweeping the women’s side of the business—without Simmons’ designs.
And Simons remains the archival designer in great demand in the men’s market. It was true even before this announcement, Casavant told me: “When I first collected, Dior men [by Hedi Slimane] It would resell at a really high price, and it wasn’t affordable to buy retail, and Raf was. And now it’s flipped. Raf is much more expensive.” Casavant recently began selling a small collection of his archives at New York’s Dover Street Market, marking the first time his collection, which is used mostly by editorial clients and celebrities, has been “available” or available to the public. What he’s noticed is that Simons’ designs Recently, during an appointment, his doctor asked if his teenage nephew could come to Casavant’s office and see his archive of Simmons’ clothing, Casavant said.
This was not by Simmons’ design, of course, though he said In a 2018 talk at Harvard University He liked the way the Grailed users handled shopping and getting his clothes. In 2020, he’s reissued a number of his archival works (which, Casavant pointed out to me, only made the original pieces more valuable). So what made it so collectible? Casavant speculates that it has to do with how Simmons’ career developed. While he may have helped a designer like Slimane have behind him the Dior brand name, “so he already had that history and cache,” Simons’ growing fame, with major appointments in European and American homes, prompted fashionistas to discover a catalog His back is from pieces that, during the brand’s first decade or so, spoke mostly to a small audience from the menswear cognoscenti.
I doubt the designer can have this kind of path anymore. Simmons established his business as a cult business, and didn’t begin making women’s clothing until it was more widely introduced to the world. Increasingly, designers are launching their own brand with a major house set as their goal; They often say that it is crucial to the financial survival of their brand.
It’s also likely that his highly emotional outfits appeal to young people who are just feeling more and more of the stuff behind Simons’ early collections, fueled by the music of bands like INXS and Joy Division. Simons has been a frequent critic of the fashion system, suggesting in numerous interviews over the years that the fashion calendar leaves little time for real ideas to develop. When he left Dior, for example, he mentioned that he wanted to focus on his own brand. Now, by working with Ms. Prada, it appears that for the first time his own ideas can be more strongly expressed in appointing his big brand. “It’s not like he died,” Casavant told me.
Maybe he could have hired Kiko Kostadinov or Samuel Ross to take over the brand. But it’s more important for Simons – more punk, more indecisive, more capricious, more artistic – to just say goodbye than for Frankenstein, the new young designer to try to take on the role. Again, it leads us to consider the way we look at things otherwise; What is the value of a super personal brand if the person who poured their heart into it doesn’t do it anymore?
Rachel Tashjian is the fashion news director at Harper’s BazaarWorking across print and digital platforms. Previously it was GQFirst fashion critic, he worked as deputy editor-in-chief of a magazine garage And as a writer in Vanity Fair. I have written for publications including Bookforum And the artforumthe creator of the invitation-only Opulent Tips newsletter.