LONDON — It’s the end for Raf Simons’ eponymous label after 27 years, the designer revealed on Instagram on Monday.
His spring 2023 show staged during Frieze London in October will be the designer’s last collection for his own brand.
Simons launched his namesake label in 1995, working on it while simultaneously holding positions at Jil Sander, Dior, Calvin Klein and Prada, where he’s currently co-creative director since February 2020.
The designer has obsessed over youth, Americana and music during his nearly three-decade career in fashion.
Simons made his debut in 1995 with a film presentation at the Daniele Ghiselli showroom in Milan. He learned how to cut and stitch via Linda Loppa, head of the fashion division of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
His first collection was all about monochromatic uniforms, a motif that’s continued through Simons designs for the last two decades. Boxy blazers with long lapels; sweater vests with high necks in a combination of knitwear and leather; smart shirts paired with striped neckties.
Spring 1998 — Black Palms
Simons collaborated with the artist Franky Claeys to print stars and palm trees onto bare bodies of models walking the show, whom he scouted via radio ads.
His roster included skaters, ravers and freethinkers — with more than 60 looks in the show.
Shirtless models walked in a big garage in the Bastille quarter in Paris with keffiyehs [a traditional checked headdress worn by those in the Arabian Peninsula] around their naked bodies, with black trousers; vests with the keffiyeh print and The Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind The Bollocks” album cover; and little skinny black waistcoats.
Spring 1999 — Kinetic Youth
The show started with David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” playing as more than a dozen of black and white looks came out onto the runway. This was Simons’ way of bringing tailoring and linear clothing to teenagers. It included sleeveless white shirts; white crewneck sweaters; soft silky black jackets; teal sleeveless Ts and long jackets; and red pleated trousers and gray V-neck sweaters.
Spring 2002 — Woe Unto Those Who Spit on the Fear Generation…The Wind Will Blow It Back
The Belgian designer enlisted the help of graphic artist Peter De Potter for his collection that was a response to the aftermath of 9/11. Models came out onto the runway barefoot with fire torches in hand wearing loose white balaclavas; the words “Hope,” “Resistance,” “Visibility,” “Vigilance,” among others, could be read on the garments; utility jumpsuits belted; and oversized sweaters with billowy wrists.
Fall 2003 — Closer
Simons partnered with English graphic designer Peter Saville, most notably known for his album artwork for bands Joy Division and New Order. Four anoraks in the collection featured printed versions of New Order’s “Technique” and “Power, Corruption & Lies”; Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “Dazzle Ships”; and Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures.”
It’s a collection famed for Simons’ take on British sensibility: red, yellow and blue schoolboy knitwear sweaters; slouchy musician tailoring; leather bombers with smart trousers that blur the dress code of casual-formal; and a subtle Union Jack stitched onto the back of a black leather and shearling jacket.
Simons has long been obsessed with youth, Americana and artist Ruby Sterling — all of which feature in this collection that kicked off with Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.” The clichés were present — a round picture of Earth from outer space; black canvases splattered with white paint to resemble stars; and more splattered tailoring in purple, blue and orange.
Simons’ collegiate collection took getting dressed to new scales: XXL. The sweaters and cardigans hid the models’ hands with unfinished edges; coats slipped on and off; and puffer coats took up all the space.
Simons referenced French designer Yves Saint Laurent’s jewel-toned color combinations of emerald green, sapphire yellow and pink howlite in a collection featuring duchess satin coats and satin T-shirts with his signature slouchy knitwear and oversized polo necks styled under or over.
Simons is a man of few words, but many gestures. His last show hosted in London was an indicator of that — shortly after the runway show, the venue turned into a rave party with more than 1,000 guests present, including his industry peers: Pierpaolo Piccioli, Grace Wales Bonner, Christopher Kane and Roksanda Ilinčić.
It was his secret swan song with some of the best of his designs on show: carefully tailored rompers; clean-cut sleeveless tailoring; elegantly oversized cardigans; and a collaboration with the estate of the late Belgian painter Philippe Vandenberg.