The centrepiece of the new issue of Dazed & Confused is an extensive feature on Raf Simons. Marking the designer’s fifteenth year in fashion, it consists of both an article/interview by Jo-Ann Furniss and a special shoot by Pierre Debusschere, styled by Robbie Spencer, which uses the occasion as an opportunity to show pieces from the archive combined with those from the most recent collections.
Simons’ rise to international prominence as the most important of the ‘third wave’ of Belgian designers since the Antwerp Six exploded on the international fashion scene at the end of the 1980’s is a notable one for numerous reasons. Least of all because Simons, who has often been cited as one of the most influential of menswear designers of recent decades by august commentators, did not follow the usual path expected of young Belgian designers. Perhaps, most notably of all, he did not study at the world-renowned fashion academy in Antwerp that has become almost an essential rite of passage for any designer entering into the canon of what is commonly conceptualised as ‘Belgian fashion’ by the international fashion media. In fact, Simons did not study fashion at all. Subsequent to training in Industrial Design, he self-taught himself garment construction over a couple of years, during which time he gathered sufficient skill and proficiency to attract the attention of Walter Van Beirendonck, for whom he subsequently worked. Whether his entrée into the world of high fashion was directly as a result of his technical proficiency or for more ethereal reasons remains, to some extent, a matter of speculation. Given Walter Van Beirendonck’s persistent championing of individuals with a strong conceptual approach and personal vision of fashion, one suspects the latter.
Simons, for example, has always pursued his creative interests across a broader remit than fashion design. Amongst other things, his interest in contemporary art and the concomitant knowledge that he brings to the topic has been sufficiently acknowledged by those in the know who have invited him to curate exhibitions or advise on their collections.
Jo-Ann Furniss’ interview reveals an intimate portrait of the designer who remains somewhat unaltered by his current stratospheric status whilst the accompanying shoot offers a timely moment to reflect on the first fifteen years. One suspects it is not the first anniversary as a key player in fashion that Mr Simons will celebrate.
Furthermore, Pierre Debusschere, as the choice of photographer invited to shoot the expansive showcasing of the archive, is an apt one. A young Belgian photographer whose career is on the rise internationally, Debusschere is both of the generation for whom Raf Simons –as a fashion designer- and Dazed & Confused –as a magazine- remain hugely influential; epitomise their generation. It is therefore interesting to see how Debusschere’s style, with its curious fusion of the from-the-hip style first championed by Dazed & Confused and framing that denies unnecessary frippery, not dissimilar to Simons’ contribution to the canon, tells a kind of history unfolding during the photographer’s own formative years.