Few have the ability to be both avant-garde and commercially successful. Few manage this while simultaneously designing for four collections. And, even fewer have managed to preserve their integrity while doing this. Raf Simons, little known outside of menswear, took over the helm of Jill Sander in 2006 and since then has produced ground-breaking and covetable clothing for both the women’s and men’s lines, while creating experimental collections for his own eponymous line and diffusion, Raf by Raf Simons.
Raf Simons produces collections that are both reflective and progressive. Working from a central theme, the pieces are an expression and exploration of a foetal idea. Rise of the Craftsman. Fall of the Prince. Dead Prince College, Raf Simon’s Autumn/Winter 2011 was an outstanding musing on couture shapes, craftsmanship, aristocracy and education.
Jumpers printed with ‘Dead Prince College’ and mohair aprons was a direct reference, but the innovative use of new weaves and fabrics and playful takes on classic ‘college’ wear was more subtle. The Duffle jacket – bulbous and with a sartorial nod at 60s Balenciaga pondered the re-working of sartorial classics. Proportions were juxtaposed and expected fabrics were re-positioned with carefully crafted natural fibres or techno savvy plastics and liquid looking patents.
This February Raf Simons, himself and his company, were dealt a heavy blow – his Italian investors, Futurepresent Group, pulled out. Remaining in a state of flux with a critically acclaimed collection and a strong legion of fans, without backers no clothing will be produced, no buyers will have the chance to buy, and what could have been will never be.
Mega-fan and esteemed New York Times fashion critic, Cathy Horne says not to worry and that this is common for young designers. But, weeks have passed and no good news has come. With a career spanning over 15 years you would expect Raf to have found an investor by now. Is it a sign of the times – economic circumstances have caused many fashion houses to fall – Lacroix anyone?
The successful couture houses bolster their sales through make-up, perfumes and handbags. Even then many have become part of conglomerate organizations, like LVMH or the Gucci Group. But what to do if like Raf Simons and Roland Mouret, you don’t want to sell your name and allow sale statistics and suited business men run your business?