The closure of Belgian designer Raf Simons' self-named label was announced on November 21 on his Instagram account, which had since been deleted. A fitting end to a brand of an exceptional designer who closes his own story with his brand, rather than the drama we’ve seen in the past from Helmut Lang and Jil Sander leaving their labels. Though, no other designer has had a greater influence on the fusion of fashion and youth culture, Simons continues to be one of the greatest menswear designers and will undoubtedly make his mark on history.
In 1995, Simons quietly unveiled his debut collection. At the time, fashion and youth culture were neither alien to one another nor intertwined. From the legendary Vivienne Westwood to Simons' predecessor Ann Demeulemeester, there were designers who were unmistakably influenced by the rebellious spirit of rock music, but these connections were indirect. Simons combined the squeaky cleanliness of high-end fashion with the sloppy youth.
He made leather perfecto jackets mainstream and he sewed post-punk badges onto luxurious merino wool sweaters. He “broke” the rules of luxury fashion.
Then, things started to alter. Given Simons' influence on fashion, Prada hired Simons to design Jil Sander in May 2005. Although Simons has no formal training in designing women's or men's clothing (his degree is in industrial design), one could see how he could advance the minimalist style that Sander was known for. It seemed strange but not entirely inappropriate. When Simons decided to design womenswear for Dior in 2012, things got even weirder. This was perceived by many as being out of the ordinary and misaligning with, well, pretty much everything his early work firmly opposed. The disastrous 2016 Calvin Klein appointment then transpired. Many longtime fans quietly moved on while Simons was hopping from one illustrious brand to another and luxuriating in luxury.
Although Simons' own line had moments of brilliance, such as the FW14 collection with American artist Sterling Ruby, it has never quite regained its reputation among his ardent supporters. A new fan base and the exorbitant resale prices of his early designs heralded a new era for Simons—mainstream acceptance—thanks to A$AP Rocky (who mentioned Simons in his hit "Raf") and Kanye West (who wore Simons' designs). His greatest hits were recycled, particularly in his SS18 collection, which featured New Order and Joy Division's infamous graphics.
His most recent collections appeared worn out, and the goth and post-punk allusions that had once energized him now seemed forced and unoriginal. Long before yesterday's announcement, A History of Raf's World appeared to be coming to an end.