Last Thursday, fashion designer Raf Simons spoke at the fourth edition of Fashion Talks at the Antwerp Trade Fair, organized by Flanders DC. The 35-minute conversation – hosted by journalist Alexander Fury – was the designer’s first public talk since leaving Calvin Klein. Simons shared his opinions about the state of the fashion industry and reflected on his previous positions at Jil Sander and Dior. Highsnobiety’s Editor-at-Large Christopher Morency was there to capture the best bits.
“When I was at Dior, I felt an incredible pressure for people to always be there,” Simons said. “Press at the studio, at the fittings, etc – I didn’t like that at all. Media always judges collections from an economical point of view and I think that’s very frustrating.”
He also noted his frustration on how the growth of a company is the only measure of success: “I don’t think it has anything to do with the [size of your] audience, or the number of stores that you are selling to, or how much you are growing your company over the years. I don’t think it’s wise. Sometimes I see very shitty collections [that then] get praised because the business is doing extremely well,” he told an audience of 800 attendees.
While Simons did not explicitly mention Calvin Klein during the talk, he did open up about being a creative director for “big brands.”
“Big brands that work with creative directors are in constant flux,” the designer stated. “We see a phenomenon that time periods become shorter, shorter, and shorter. It’s something I wasn’t aware of in the earlier stages, when I took [on] Jil. These brands – although they can very much support you and they can [create] possibilities that relate to the actual designer – will usually exist forever, no matter who’s there. Because they are [built] on all aspects that surround the actual core of fashion, and the actual content, emotion, and creating of garments, and how that relates to your audience.”
“These big brands are very much driven by marketing and growth, and it’s rare that a designer is good at both aspects,” Simons said. “I am definitely not good at all the aspects. What is more important is that the designer knows who to work with, which is also not your choice, but it’s definitely your choice in your [own] company.”
“As a creative director, it’s more complicated, because most of these companies have everything in place, and then you come in and the focus is very much [on the] collections,” Simons continued. “You [might] bring a huge list of creatives in, but I have [also] been in places where I had to be involved [in bringing] people into merchandising or commercial because they hadn’t really sorted that out, or at least they hadn’t really sorted that out [in terms of] what I needed to create for the brand, to make it work.”
Looking towards the future, Simons wants to remain a disruptor, an anti-fashion fighter: “I want to stay young in the way of thinking. I don’t want to give in with the brands – so many brands gave in. They start out so interesting, then at the end [they are] commercialized, and it becomes a very flat kind of business.”
“For my brand, I want to keep on having that typical emotion that I am constantly seeking for, and that means that you sometimes have to give things [that people] won’t like or won’t be ready for, but at least it will create a tidal wave, because it’s going to make them think about what it eventually could be,” concluded Simons.