In any industry, figures as universally revered as Raf Simons are few and far between. 

In his early career, Simon’s followers were the punk-infused fashion intellectuals, relating to the youthful revolt inherent in subculture. Fast-forward to 2018, and Raf Simons is one of the most relevant designers on the planet, amongst his most avid fans the Instagram and music industry elite. While his subculture-laden creative spin has been around since 1995, it only gets more poignant as the modern zeitgeist becomes more and more concerned with the levelling of archaic hierarchies.

ozweego

For the uninitiated, Raf’s work has been some of the most influential in fashions modern era, and has trickled down to have a marked impact on culture as a whole. From renovating tired maisons, to the resurgence of slim-cut suiting, to giving streetwear it’s shot at the big time.
Born to a night watchman and a cleaner, Raf Simons early life in Belgium wasn’t exactly fashion-centric. At the time, the country didn’t have much sway in the industry, if any – which is partly why the likes of Ann Demulemeester and Dries Van Noten who came before made such an impression, and along with 4 other compatriots became known as the Antwerp Six; marking a turning point for Belgian design. 

Simon’s first taste of fashion was at a Martin Margiela show in 1990, prior to which he’d thought fashion to be too concerned with glitz and superficiality. The runway show changed his perception though, and served as the inspiration to master fashion design. The following year, He’d finish his studies at the University of Genk, and only 4 years on from that found his eponymous label. 

Today, Raf’s runway shows are some of the most anticipated events in the menswear calendar, and are as creative as the outfits exhibited.  It’s not unusual for guests to be standing, relinquishing any status tied to a seating plan. It’s not unusual to be transported to another place, either, which is testament to the strength of Rafs creative vision. 

SS18 sees heavy Blade Runner inspired imagery; chaotic, layered silhouettes with pops of graphics and textures. Interested with the way Asian culture comes together with Western aesthetics, the SS18 runway show was very much a collision of East and West, and of old and new. 

Long-running collaborator and muse Peter Saville came together again with Simons to repurpose iconic Factory Records graphics across props and garments – the hundreds of Chinese lanterns emblazoned with Joy Division and New Order artwork were supposedly hand-made by Saville himself. The soft glow of lanterns and neon reflected in the wet runway created an atmosphere that could’ve been pulled directly from Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi epic.

ozweego

Raf’s Replicants strode the scene braced for the flood - their clear, printed umbrellas will go down as the coolest wet weather accessories the dystopian future has ever seen. Aside from the cyberpunk visuals, the idea of Replicants (bioengineered, emotionally programmed androids) being central to a fashion show is either a commentary on contrived beauty or a trap for over-thinking commentators to fall into. At the very least It’s an excuse to watch Blade Runner again.   

The SS18 footwear collection continues Simon’s long-running collaboration with adidas, with new iterations of the Ozweego III, Stan smith and Detroit Runner. 

With the Ozweego riding the chunky sneaker trend, the silhouette has never been as popular as it is now. Draped in block colours and accentuated by signature silicone windows, the shoe is may be acquired taste, but it’s a modern classic nonetheless.  

SS18 collections blend of old and new continues in the Detroit runner - twisting convention to create an Avant Garde take on the canvas lace-up. Using minimal branding and a monochrome palette, Raf lets the statement stacked sole make maximum impact – elevating a ubiquitous silhouette into a distinctly futuristic one. 

detroitrunner

As his collaboration with adidas draws to a close, Raf’s first collections with Calvin Klein are making a mark on NYFW. While Simon’s continued successes come from a dedication to pushing his art forwards, In a rare interview with GQ, Simons talks about the importance of recognising his archive, too: 

‘Always the future. And I was actually very much like that. I didn’t get rid of it, but I wasn’t paying too much attention to it. Always romanticizing the future. And now I start to understand that it has an importance and I should care about. I know it’s important. And for a long time I thought not. But it is important. Otherwise there wouldn’t be pyramids.’

Without going into the nuances of the ever-raging debate, fashion is an art form and so – by it’s very definition - is a subjective matter. History, however, is not. Neither is business. In this vein, ask fashion houses Christian Dior and Jil Sander (and in a few years, Calvin Klein) If Mr Simons is one of the best designers of his generation. They’ll nod in unison. 

Shop the adidas x Raf Simons collection here
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