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Don’t call it a collaboration. Raf Simons and Sterling Ruby merge their brands for one season only.

On Wednesday evening, Raf Simons and Sterling Ruby kicked off the Paris men’s shows with a co-designed collection merging the designer’s fashion with the artist’s art. i-D spoke to them after the show.

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How did you design the collection?
Raf Simons: We have done the whole thing together. The whole idea was to not do an artist collaboration, like when someone asks an artist do a bag for them or whatever. We wanted to see how we together would like to see the man and how he could and should dress. Conceptually as well as the effective act of doing it, also. I would do things, we’d discuss, and it would come together as something else. 

How did you physically pull it off?
Sterling Ruby: All of the bleaching, all of the demarcation and all of the fabric has been done in LA. We were fedEx’ing scraps day in and day night. 

Was it an easy process?
RS: The idea was to bring the two worlds very close to each other. There were different bodies of work within this total body of work. You have Sterling’s collages, which are very connected to fabric and fabric treatment, and then I have a history with my brand from the early days, which is about doing a lot of collage work and message work and putting symbols on the clothes. So we didn’t even have to think it over in terms of what we should do, because we’ve known each other for nine years, and I think the reason we became such close friends is because we have so many mutual ideas and a shared kind of vision, either conceptually or aesthetically. 

How did you initially connect?
SR: I think initially, nine years ago, we connected through art, but it’s been building over time. We have a lot of similarities: similar music, similar cultures, similar geographies, similar colours. 

Can you name one of them?
SR: If I have to pick one out? We both love ceramics. Love ‘em! Glazing; the idea of kilns. 

What does the ‘father’ print signify?
RS: Well, it’s a very loaded word, of course. It’s about responsibility. It’s a word that we placed there for everyone to perceive it. I think we were both always attracted to a certain kind of iconic wording. It’s not your average word. It’s got a lot to do with how you feel as a man, and this being a men’s collection that was quite important, next to some imagery that comes in such as sharks, which are about danger. It has a lot do with how we think and how we stand now in the world, and also where both art and men’s fashion stand in the world. 

What does ‘abus lang’ mean?
SR: It’s abbreviations for abusive language. We wanted to represent how abstract men are nowadays, so we’ve been loading a lot of things into the clothing in terms of iconography. 

How did you approach the soundtrack?
SR: We kicked some things around over the past four days in Paris – late, late, late into the night. We wanted to have a soundtrack that seemed somewhat recognisable but perhaps would be unexpected. For me the Eno guitar solo at the end was a killer. 

What else was in it?
SR: It was a couple of things, beginning with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and ending with the crescendo of Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets. It’s really special, really atmospheric, and to a certain extent it’s abstract kind of consumption. Abstract power. It’s feminine but it’s masculine, too. 

How are you going to brand it?
Everything is co-branded but within the co-branding we also have different ones, because we didn’t want to have any restriction linked to either the fashion system or the art system, so in that sense we needed to make several labels. If we had an idea we wanted to do and it meant we couldn’t keep producing afterwards, it got a unique label. If it would mean you could only do ten, then it would get a limited edition label. If it would mean that you just produce, then it gets a label. 

Why was it right to do this collection now?
RS: It could have been done earlier, it could have been done later. I wouldn’t easily decide to do a new brand. For me it’s a unique situation just for this season, but it’s a new brand. I really don’t see it as my brand. This is our brand. And I think, in order to do that, it probably took me eighteen years. It’s not something you just do with the first person you meet. Your mindset has to be very together, I think, to do that.