Raf Simons On the State of the Fashion System in First Talk After Leaving Calvin Klein

On Thursday, fashion designer Raf Simons was a guest at the fourth edition of Fashion Talks, a fashion seminar in the Antwerp Trade Fair, organized by Flanders DC. It’s his first talk after leaving Calvin Klein and was in conversation with acclaimed journalist Alexander Fury of the FT and Another Mag. In the 35-minute talk, Simons shared his opinions about the state of the fashion system, creativity as well as reflecting from his previous positions at Jil Sander and Dior.

“When I was at Dior I felt an incredible pressure for people to always be there,” he says. “Press at the studio, at the fittings etc. I didn’t like that at all. Media always judges collections from an economical point of view and I thinks that’s very frustrating.

He also shown his frustration on how growth of a company is the only measure of success.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the amount of audience that you have, or the number of stores that you are selling to, or how much you are growing your company over the years. I don’t think it’s wise. Sometimes I also see very sh—-y collections but then they get praised because the business is doing extremely well,” he says to an audience of 800 people.

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He did not mention Calvin Klein during his talk, but did open up about being a creative director for “big brands.”

“Big brands that work with creative directors are in constant flux,” the designer declared.  “We see a phenomenon that time periods become shorter, shorter and shorter. It’s something I wasn’t aware of in the earlier stage when I took Jil. These brands, although they can very much support you and they can make possibilities that relate to the actual designer, these brands will usually exist forever no matter who’s there. Because they are extremely constructed on all the aspect that surrounds the actual core of fashion, and the actual content, emotion and creating of garments and how that relates to your big or small audience,” he said.

“These big brands are very much now driven by marketing and gold, and it’s rare that a designer is good in both aspects. I am definitely not good at all the aspects. I know for myself. What is more important is that the designer knows who to work with, which is also not your choice, but it’s definitely your choice in your [own] company,” he continued.

“As a creative director, it’s more complicated because very much most of these companies have everything in place and then you come in and the focus is in the beginning very much about collections. You bring probably a huge list of creatives in, but I have been in places where I had to be involved to bring people into merchandising or commercial because they hadn’t really sorted that out, or at least they hadn’t really sorted that out that what I thought was what I needed to create for the brand to make it work,” Simons added.

Looking into the future, Simons wants to remain a disruptor, an anti-fashion fighter. “I want to stay young in the way of thinking. I don’t want to give in with the brands. So many brands gave in. They could start out so interesting, then at the end, commercialized and it becomes a very flat kind of business,” he said

“For my brand, I want to keep on having that typical emotion that I am constantly seeking for and that means that you sometimes have to give things which they won’t like or won’t be ready for it, but at least it will create a tidal wave because it’s going to make them think about what it eventually could be,” concluded Simons.

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