Raf Simons on the role of a designer in the modern fashion industry

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“When I first started my brand, I knew nothing about LVMH and all these big corporations, as well as that there was a creative director at all,” Raf Simons admitted in an interview with Alexander Fury at the fourth Fashion Talks in Antwerp. This was his first public appearance since leaving Calvin Klein in December 2018. “All I’ve seen is Walter van Beirendonk, Ann Demelmeister, Dirk van Saen, Dries van Noten and Martin Margiela creating their own brands.”

In 1995, like many other Belgian designers, Simons created his own brand on his own, but later Raf’s career took a different direction. In 2005, the designer was appointed Creative Director of Jil Sander, a brand owned by the Prada Group at the time. Seven years later, in 2012, he was promoted to creative director of the women’s direction at Christian Dior, a French house owned by LVMH, where he worked for three years. And in 2016, after almost a year hiatus, the designer took over the leadership of Calvin Klein. He was tasked with making a massive rebranding of the pillar of American fashion – and Simons created Calvin Klein 205W39NYC. Despite critical acclaim, his witty flirtation with American culture during the Trump presidency fell short of financial expectations, and Raf was forced out of the company.

Raf Simons and Alexander Fury

© Daughter Roelants Photography

“Big brands are increasingly operating for marketing and profit reasons, but a very limited number of designers are equally successful in these areas,” Simons said. He clearly disapproves of the modern fashion industry’s unbridled pursuit of money and large volumes of production, which it perceives as the only significant indicators of success. “These are not the criteria by which talent should be judged,” the designer continued. In his opinion, the achievements of a brand do not depend on its audience, number of stores or sales growth: “I don’t think this is a wise approach. Sometimes I see horrible collections that get good reviews because the company’s profits are growing. “

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Calvin Klein 205W39NYC spring-summer 2019

How the priorities in the industry have changed over the nearly 25-year career of Simons

It is hard to ignore the fact that the rules of the game in the fashion industry have changed since the end of the last century. Today’s fashion audience is broader than ever, financial stakes are ever higher, and designers are constantly under pressure to meet the needs of all customer groups.

By the way, our consumer habits have also changed. Simons recalls that when he started showing his collections in Paris, “there were people who wore only Gaultier, or only Margiela, or only Ann Demeulemeester.” Nowadays, such devotion to a single brand is extremely rare. Instead, the big houses prefer to release an endless stream of understandable and merchandisable items. They are no longer interested in giving their creative directors complete creative freedom.

© Daughter Roelants Photography

In a controversial 2012 interview with System Magazine, Nicolas Ghesquière also discussed the implications of this new approach to doing business and shared 15 years of experience at Balenciaga, one of the main assets of the Kering conglomerate. “All efforts were aimed at making a corporate car out of the brand, – said the designer. “I started to feel completely squeezed out, as if they wanted to steal my identity and just make a ‘homogenized’ product.”

Simons and Ghesquière are in unison with the voice of Stefano Pilati, former creative director of Yves Saint Laurent and Ermenegildo Zegna. In a recent poll on his Instagram Stories, a fan pleaded with the designer to return to Saint Laurent. Pilati’s response was clear and concise: “Thank you, but no. Freedom is more important to me than prestige. “

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How a new generation of designers is trying to combat the uniformity of today’s fashion

Watching the formation of such an ambiguous system of values, young designers, it seems, no longer see good reasons for working for major fashion houses. In recent years, many independent brands have sprung up that prioritize creative freedom over profit-seeking and explosive growth. However, one does not interfere with the other.

One such example is Simon Port Jacquemus. This year, his company celebrated its 10th anniversary, and in an interview with WWD, the designer admitted that the brand’s expected profit for 2019 should exceed 20 million euros. There were rumors that Jacquemus received seductive offers from large fashion houses, but he refuses from time to time, not wanting to dance to someone’s tune. “I always say: I don’t need a big brand, I already have one, this is Jacquemus. And I keep repeating this over and over again, – the designer told Vogue on the eve of his spring-summer 2020 show, which took place in the lavender fields of Provence. “My mission is to be the voice of a generation that not only thinks about the future of our planet, but also strives for a happy life, in which this very happiness is not always measured in money.”

Jacquemus spring-summer 2020

Jacquemus talked about the same metaphysical perception of success in the signature to one of his Instagram posts – then the topic was the lack of a brand in the schedule of the last Paris Fashion Week. “We ask ourselves a lot of questions, especially now as we live this bright moment. I understand what kind of person I want to be and what kind of company I want to lead, ”the designer wrote, ending with the phrase“ Je ne veux pas grossir, mais grandir ”, which translates as“ I want not to grow, but to grow up ”.

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So what will the future hold for designers

Simons’ story is metaphorical in many respects – a clear example of what problems the fashion industry still cannot solve. He believes it is time to give up commercial values ​​and return to a more emotional, instinctive design process. “Fashion is moving from a creative value system to a commercial value system,” says Simons. Now, in his opinion, many brands are “too fixated on timing, which is dictated solely by considerations of commerce and economics.” As a result, he says, “everything is bought and sold, and in the end fashion becomes just a business. With my clothes, I want to convey those emotions for which I am doing all this ”.

He concludes with words that will undoubtedly resonate in the heart of any designer: “I just wanted to create clothes.” A reasonable reminder to the entire fashion industry not to discount its creativity.

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Source : www.vogue.ru

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