Ahead of Raf Simons' Spring/Summer 2023 collection, which will be showcased in London on October 13 for the very first time, Hypebae looks back at the Belgian fashion designer's upward career and explores the interdisciplinary affinity between Simons' quintessential designs and the zeitgeist of British culture. Since starting his cutting-edge menswear line, Simons has incorporated elements of British new-wave music, youth subcultures and underground scenes into an industry-defining range of styles, shapes and symbols. "It's been a dream for a while to show in London -- a city where fashion and creativity is omnipresent in the streets, and where I see exceptional people with a strong unique style," announced Simons in a press release.
Continue scrolling to see highlight moments from Raf Simons in the past, where he showed love for British culture on the runway.
Raf Simons Fall/Winter 1997
Raf Simons' FW97 collection, inspired by English schoolboys with a background of punk and underground subcultures, represented the designer's debut runway show in Paris. Up to this point, Simons' collections were showcased through presentations or videos at art galleries and design studios. The anticipated lineup comprised twisted and reworked traditional uniform silhouettes resembling MENSA students' looks — a theme that would be repeated and referenced across his subsequent core collections. In a bid to incorporate a genuine hint of gender indeterminacy and an undertow of British new-wave zeitgeist, the Belgian designer street-cast an array of models with dark, slimline and traditionally feminine features. Simons' trailblazing ideas inspired by rebellion, subversion, and transgression shaped generations to come and the fashion industry by bringing transgressed sub-cultures into contemporary fashion.
Raf Simons Spring/Sumer 1998
Raf Simons subverted traditional ideas of masculinity for its radical Spring/Summer 1998 collection, dubbed "Black Palms." The show, being Simons' second catwalk ever, collated a series of underground signatures that demystified the glamour of the fashion industry at the time and cemented his status as a menswear visionary. Inside a rented garage in the Bastille quarter of Paris, the Belgian designer sent a line-up of young men from the streets of Antwerp or Cologne, mainly skaters and ravers, down the runway to the beat of a dark industrial techno sound. The vault's low lighting aided in keeping things dark, stripped-back and disorganized. Despite showing in the French capital, echoes of the U.K. punk movement embodied the space. The gothic, catalyst line-up comprised slimline, tailored silhouettes and tantalizing, slashed details, which invited the audience to question traditional male dress codes. Among the riotous styling, a black mesh tank top that featured a print of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks album cover, spotlighted the designer's affinity with youth culture and emerging, groundbreaking music styles.
Raf Simons Fall/Winter 2003
Raf Simons' Fall/Winter 2003 collection, titled "Closer," saw him take a step forward in an elegant new direction, keeping his uncompromising dark, younger self a little lighter. The designer's free-spirited ongoing narrative pivoted towards more precise cuts and delicate silhouettes. Simons tapped famed graphic designer Peter Saville for the ultimate pop culture collaboration. Seeking to create a dialogue with the audience and maintain his ongoing narrative about the Interzone, the partnership comprised timeless pieces that channeled the designer's youthful days. A fishtail anorak featuring Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures album cover stood out in the line-up. Other coats also featured New Order's record sleeves artworks, released in the early '80s. The concept of the Interzone is a crucial aspect of Simons' work, representing the in-between space between design, art, fashion and music, highly influenced by the British new-wave music zeitgeist. The shearling parkas with hand-painted graphic by Saville now resell online for approximately $20,000 USD.
Raf Simons Spring/Summer 2016
British club culture and explorations of youth continued to have a pervasive influence on Raf Simons' subsequent runway shows. British contemporary artist Mark Leckey, known for his found object art and video compositions, highly impacted Simons' outlook on late 20th-century pop culture. Leckey's 1999 cult film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore has been repeatedly referenced in the designer's work. First, on his Spring/Summer 2007 collection, where it was projected in the background, followed by his Spring/Summer 2012 menswear show for Jil Sander. Most recently, in the Spring/Summer 2016 collection for his namesake label, Simons paid tribute to the archival footage from Britain's various underground clubbing scenes across three decades, which signified the end of the analogue age. Inspired by rave scenes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film is not only remixed in the soundtrack but also referenced across tailored parkas with pressed eyelets, shrunken knits, and baggy high-waisted trousers. Headscarves covering some models' faces embodied the film's raver look and teenager revelry spirit.
Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2015 Couture
When Raf Simons was appointed Artistic Director of the French luxury house Christian Dior, his conceptual, darker background shifted towards a clear-sighted vision skilled in incorporating delicate elements such as flowers, curves and nature into female body codes. Simons' sensitivity and respect for women led him to achieve a beautiful balance between Dior couture nuances and his classic modernism approach to design. For the Spring/Summer 2015 Couture collection, the designer created a well-produced, soulful collection that used unconventional materials such as ultra-slick PVC, partly inspired by icon David Bowie. Simons was not shy about the cultural hints that inspired the collection, and his inherent love for culture began a radical and emotional new chapter for the French luxury house. A standout piece from the show was a striped and sequined jumpsuit that revamped David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust-era costumes. In the collection's exclusive press release, Simons stated, "He's a chameleon, able to reinvent himself. But he's also the materialization of something else. More than a man — an idea."
Watch this space for coverage of Raf Simons' upcoming collection and find Paris Fashion Week SS23 content across Hypebae.