On October 22, 2015, Raf Simons announced that he would be parting ways with Christian Dior, the Parisian house he helmed for three and a half years. “It is a decision based entirely and equally on my desire to focus on other interests in my life, including my own brand, and the passions that drive me outside my work," he said in his official statement. Simons had been extremely vocal in his frustrations with the increasingly fast-paced fashion system, which forced him to design six Dior collections a year, in as little as three weeks each.
While Simons' exit statement hinted that he'd be taking a break from what he has since called the high fashion "madhouse," it didn't take long for rumors to start spreading that he'd soon be going to Calvin Klein. Just yesterday it was announced that CK's Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli had stepped down from their respective creative director positions, with various publications hinting that we're just moments away from Raf's next move being confirmed, after months of speculation.
I like to observe high fashion's never-ending game of musical chairs as much as the next guy, but I'd much, much rather Raf Simons just stuck to what we all know and love him for - his own label.
"PRIDE IN INDIVIDUALITY" states the biography on rafsimons.com. Since his first collection in 1995, the softly-spoken Belgian has been fascinated with niche subcultures and creatives, with a look inspired and designed around so-called confident outsiders. "Always at the core of his universe (and as essential as the clothes themselves) are attitudes, moods and statements about individuality and independence," his bio continues.
He's paid tribute to the Manic Street Preachers’ missing-presumed-dead guitarist Richey Edwards (FW01), adorned pieces with the artwork of New Order and Joy Division (via graphic design legend Peter Saville, for FW03 and FW04 respectively), and even skipped his own FW14 collection so he could indulge in a huge collaboration with esoteric artist Sterling Ruby instead.
In a menswear climate that's obsessed with subcultures both past and present, Raf's own work is relevant now more than ever. His adidas shoes are everywhere, people are selling his jackets for $20,000 and his label has remained fiercely independent, inspiring legions of young designers to this day. However, for the second half of Simons’ 21-year career, it seems that his work has taken a backseat to the stuff he’s had to create for luxury houses – first Jil Sander in 2005, then Dior in 2012, and now, it seems, Calvin Klein.
Even before he left Dior, Raf made it clear that he thinks fashion is moving way too fast. "Technically speaking, it works. Does it work for me emotionally? No," he told Cathy Horyn in an interview that took place shortly before his exit was announced. "I’m not the kind of person who likes to do things so fast. I think if I had more time, I would reject more things, and bring other ideas or concepts in."
If Raf's main reason for exiting Dior was the speed and pressure of leading a luxury house, then just sticking to his own line would be a no-brainer (obviously that's forgetting the huge sums of money involved – directing a major luxury house isn't exactly minimum-wage work). Having the time and space to fully realize his own brand would be amazing – particularly when you consider just how seminal his earlier work was (and still is) before he took on the Jil Sander job.
In this hypothetical fashion dreamland where Raf just stuck to his own label, maybe the Raf by Raf Simons diffusion line, which went on hold in 2009, could return. Some Raf womenswear couldn't hurt either. It would make sense, given how blurry the lines are between genders in fashion right now, and it's not like he's short of experience in designing for women — he’s been doing it for over 10 years at Jil Sander and Dior.
What's more, by refusing to play the game he could show the rest of the fashion world that it's still possible to do things your own way - forget the ridiculous cycle of trends and fads, the social media obsession, the celebrity endorsements, the jam-packed schedule and the endless stream of collections.
"Everyone is paying attention to the wrong thing," Simons commented just last week. "There’s this huge debate about ‘Oh my God, should we sell the garments the day after the show or three days after the show or should we tweet it in this way or Instagram it in that way?’…You know, all that kind of bullshit…What we should ask is will we have enough creative people who are strong enough and willing to do what is necessary right now to follow that madhouse."
But Raf's certainly not the only one dissatisfied with the way things are going for the fashion world – the entire system is being called into question right now, with Vetements' Demna Gvasalia and Gucci's Alessandro Michele both publicly airing their frustrations, too. He doesn't need to work on his legacy – he's already one of the fashion world's most beloved names, and his influence in menswear is indisputable — but a reinvigorated Raf Simons line could set an example to the rest of the industry, showing that fashion doesn't need to be constantly filling the world with new products, new collections and new fads. It can work at its own pace.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.