After 27 years, Raf Simons will close his eponymous label, the Belgian designer announced in an Instagram post this evening. Founded in 1995, the cult Antwerp-based label melded the energy of youth and counter-cultural movements with a precise, minimalist approach to cut and silhouette; in the years since, Simons has continued the label alongside stints at Jil Sander, Dior and Calvin Klein. He is currently co-creative director of Prada alongside Miuccia Prada, a role he will continue.
The announcement marks his S/S 2023 show – a co-ed outing shown at London nightclub Printworks – as his final collection. ‘The Spring/Summer 2023 collection is the conclusion of an extraordinary 27-year journey and the final season of the Raf Simons brand,’ he wrote in the Instagram post. ‘I lack the words to share how proud I am of all that we have achieved. I am grateful for the incredible support from my team, from my collaborators, from the press team and buyers, and from our devoted fans and loyal followers.’
Indeed, Simons’ label has a cult following both inside and outside of the fashion industry, best evidenced by a thriving resale market of his most memorable designs (in 2020, in a project titled ‘Archive Redux’, he reissued 100 pieces from his archive). Collaboration was also at the heart of his process, working closely with Belgian compatriots photographer Willy Vanderperre, stylist Olivier Rizzo, and make-up artist Peter Philips throughout his career (each studied at Royal Academy Antwerp), while also working on collaborative projects with brands including Fred Perry, Kvadrat, Eastpak, Adidas and more.
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The Raf Simons studio also ushered in the careers of a new generation of designers who worked for the Antwerp-based label, including Pieter Mulier, current creative director of Alaïa, and Matthieu Blazy, current creative director of Bottega Veneta. Numerous other designers have cited his influence, and Simons also maintained close links with the art world; most memorably, he created an A/W 2014 collection with Sterling Ruby, whereby both Simons’ and the American artist’s name appeared in the label.
The designer’s final collection, which was titled ‘Corps, Coda’ and shown during London’s Frieze Week (see our fashion moments of Frieze Week 2022), looked towards the world of dance for inspiration. ‘The energy of dance, the impact of the body… a celebration,’ the notes described of the collection, which featured cut-off ballet tights, romper suits and sweaters that replicated the shape of an undone leotard. ‘Bare, spare, cut away, stripped back… a reduction to an essence, to essential form.’
Few could have predicted the blockbuster show – with over 1,000 attendees, including milliner Stephen Jones and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli – would be his last. ‘Forward always,’ the designer signed off.
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Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.
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