MILAN — Other designers may be clipping their wings, but Raf Simons is spreading his.
This story first appeared in the April 8, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Simons detailed plans for his eponymous label, which include his first ad campaign, a small furniture collection and two more stores in Asia — all despite the grim economic climate.
With the group’s sales expected to increase 15 percent to 9 million euros, or $12.1 million at current exchange, this year, the Belgian designer, who launched his signature men’s wear label in 1995, has every reason to be positive.
“You prepare yourself for a difficult year ahead — I am well-informed. I know companies are struggling, but without sounding pretentious, I really can’t believe we have such positive results,” Simons said at the headquarters of Futurenet, his de facto maison.
Futurenet holds exclusive licensing rights for all Raf Simons labels via a joint venture agreement with Japan’s Mitsui Group, which they inked in 2005. Production, for the most part, is centralized in Italy.
Musing on his fall collection, which marked a shift to classic tailoring, Simons said he wanted “to introduce a more mature collection in order to appeal to a more mature customer.
“I really thought about how I could create Brioni and Ermenegildo Zegna-type suits — but in my own way,” said Simons, 41. “The collection is evolving as I have evolved and in the way I wear my own clothes, not just in the fit.”
His debut ad campaign, which will launch in select magazines for fall, aims to support this message.
“It’s another way to communicate with your audience. Fashion shows can only do so much,” the designer said.
Simons, who majored in furniture design, is also returning to his roots with a collection of household items for 2010.
“I haven’t designed furniture since I was 23,” he said. “A very long time ago, an Italian manufacturer approached me to design furniture for them. If the project had happened, I may never have become a fashion designer.”
Simons said a Belgian furniture maker, who had collaborated with Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester, would produce the collection, but he did not disclose further details.
Futurenet chief executive officer Stefano Martinetto lauded the performance of Simons’ work, citing “extremely” successful collaborations with Eastpak and Dr. Martens and the opening of 400 Fred Perry by Raf Simons accounts in 2008.
“We are doing great numbers in the most difficult and challenging market,” Martinetto said.
Futurenet and Mitsui currently operate two freestanding Raf Simons stores, in Tokyo and Osaka. Martinetto said the partners would add two franchised stores in Hong Kong and Beijing by 2011 and hope one day to open a unit in New York.