Finishing a stage at the top of the game is a legendary move. Whether it’s rock stars, politicians, businessmen or fashionistas, few people have the guts to do it. It’s the first thought that echoes in the most recent memory of watching Raf Simons leap from the catwalk of a bar into a crowd of enthusiastic fans at his London warehouse rave show on October 13.
Then, stepping back, it crossed my mind that he achieved the last rough utopia of the night. It’s kind of a romanticized culmination of all the underground teen scenes he’s based his brand on since 1995. I’ve never seen him so happy. Watch him encourage kids who want to tell him what’s on their mind.
There was absolutely no indication that this was actually the last Raf Simons show, the last to be held under his own brand for 27 years. Perhaps he felt there was no way to finish off that night? If he had figured it out already, it would have been the perfect way to get the most out of it. Leave me wanting more.
An emotional outburst over the loss of such a fashion hero to his first internal cohort of followers from the 1990s (now in their 50s and 60s) is playing out on social media. . By comparison, it certainly amounts to the panic buying that followed the shocking grief the women experienced when Phoebe Philo dumped Celine.
No doubt the final Raf Simons collection (if delivered) will be withdrawn from stores, and the (always high) resale prices of anything bearing his name will skyrocket overnight.
Of course Raf hasn’t left. Along with Miuccia Prada, he designs clothing for women and men and is at the heart of one of the world’s leading luxury powerhouses. She has been quoted as saying that he has a never-ending contract (which almost reminds me of the lifetime fix Karl Lagerfeld enjoyed at Fendi). and his house in Antwerp. Enough for designers who want to maintain a certain balance in their private life.
But understanding the reasons behind his announcement to shut down the brand is difficult for Raf, whether it’s job pressures, a dark economic climate or a midlife change of heart.
His situation sounds more similar to that of Balenciaga’s Demna, who chose to focus on his work at the fashion house while she cut ties with the label he founded, Vetements. The idea that you have to multitask in the fashion industry may finally be out of date.
Some have noted similarities to fashion gods Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela’s much earlier outings with Raf. They are an example of a designer whose body of work has become increasingly respected since he quit his job, and at the top of his game. Similarly, the name of Raf Simons remains sacred.
However, there are differences. Lang and Margiela had already sold the brand before leaving the company. Raf Simons became independent. You can wrap it or open it as you like. Die-hard fans remember that there was a time before when he put the brand on hold and then came back.
Maybe it will, maybe not. Or he could do something completely different: a completely different project that suits his personal intellectual interests. One that isn’t hampered by the constant and ever-increasing demands of meeting the infamous constant cycle of seasons, shows, sales to buyers, factory production, delivery, sales, and ready-to-wear iterations. If that is one of his motivations, the extreme difficulty that every independent designer linked to the wholesale system faces, he chose to give it up right now.
But there is probably more than that. “Relevant” has been a touchstone for the credibility of Raf’s vocabulary. By “relevant” I mean the times and the new ideas generated by young people. These days, there are many other ways that fashion can be “relevant” and exist outside of the wholesale fashion business. The younger generation that Raf keeps in touch with is busy developing new systems for themselves. These kinds of conversations were the ones he used to have with students and young designers and entrepreneurs in London. Were you inspired by hearing them talk.