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Although he is now one of the indisputable kings of fashion, Raf Simons never took a single fashion course. Instead, he studied industrial design in Genk, Belgium, close to his hometown Neerpelt. Nevertheless he took an internship at the Walter Van Beirendonck Antwerp office while still at school, citing fashion as a major point of interest. Then he started working as a furniture designer, but gradually grew unhappy with this direction. In 1995, after moving to Antwerp and meeting up with Linda Loppa, he decided to switch careers. Obsessed both by traditional and rebellious dress codes of present and past youth cultures, Raf distilled a ground-breaking new style from these inspirations. From his first collection for autumn/winter 1995, he drew a tight silhouette that encapsulated references like English schoolboys, punk, Kraftwerk and Bauhaus architecture. Despite international acclaim, Raf shut down his company in 1998, and returned for autumn/winter 2000 with a radical new look, worn by models scouted on the streets of Antwerp, who became the subject of a book collaboration with photographer David Sims, called Isolated Heroes. In February 2001 Raf guest edited The Inspiration Issue and in 2003 he curated two exhibitions (The Fourth Sex at Pitti Immagine, Florence, and Guided By Heroes in Hasselt, Belgium) and collaborated with Peter Saville on his autumn/winter 2003 collection Closer. In May 2005 it was announced that Raf would take over as creative director at Jil Sander – dedicating the autumn/winter 2009 collection to Sander. After six and a half years at the brand, autumn-winter 12 was Raf’s last collection for Jil Sander, and in April 2012 he was named Artistic Director of Christian Dior, masterminding dazzling shows in Paris and turning his hand to haute couture. His first cover shoot for i-D was in Summer 2012 for The Lights, Camera, Action Issue, his secret obsession is Sterling Ruby, favourite film, ‘Safe’ by Todd Haynes and record, Consumer by Plastikman.

Career highlight? The minutes after my last Jil Sander show and my first Christian Dior Haute Couture show.


Photography Willy Vanderperre
Styling Olivier Rizzzo
[The Lights Camera Action Issue, No. 319, Summer 2012]

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