Raf Simons, born on January 12, 1968 in Neerpelt is a Belgian fashion designer. Born to Alda Beckers (house cleaner) and Jacques Simons (night guard), he graduated in furniture design and industrial design in 1991 from a college located in Genk. Around this time, he use to congregate at Witzli-Poetzli with the likes of David Vandewal, Willy Vaneperre, Olivier Rizzo and later Veronique Branquinho (girlfriend) to talk about fashion designers, namely Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang.
He started his professional career by working for many different galleries as a furniture designer. Prior to this, he did an internship at Walter Van Beirendonck’s design atelier from 1991 until 1993. Berendonck took Simons to the Paris Fashion Week and that was the first time Raf experienced and witnessed a fashion show that featured Martin Margiela’s work in all-white, which became a source of inspiration for Simons and he decided to pursue fashion design as a career.
The head of a fashion division at Antwerp Royal Academy, Linda Loppa, encouraged Simons to become a self-trained designer of menswear and in 1995 he launched his eponymous label. The same year, he introduced his debut collection that featured a video presentation with street models. For the first two years, all his work was shown through presentations and videos. In 1997, during Fall and Winter, he showed his collection through a runway show.
Simon’s early work incorporated aesthetics and youth culture together from different sources, such as Gabba, and MENSA. Music has played an integral role in Simon’s designs, with references to figures like Ian Curtis of Joy Division and Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers.
In 2000, Simons closed down his company to take a vacation after his collection launching Confusion. A fresh contract with Gysemans (Manufacturer from Belgium) required Simon’s company to open up again a year later. Around this time, he became prominent, internationally, with his line called Woe Onto Those Who Spit On The Fear Generation… The Wind Will Blow It Back. This became his most influential works. Following this, in 2003, he was given the Swiss Textiles Award and received materials worth hundred thousand Euros. In 2004, his company restructured with Futurenet and Mitsul becoming the distribution leader.
A year later, Simons released Raf Simons: Redux, a book about his ten year career. Alongside this, a retrospective was held displaying his work and an outdoor catwalk show took place at Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence.
Simons has collaborated with Fred Perry, Asics, Adidas, Eastpak, and Sterling Ruby. Other than his fashion related career, the designer has played as a consultant for the art collection, Cugrang Freres in Belgium. He has a personal art collection including the works of Brian Calvin, Mike Kelley, Evan Holloway and Ruby. In addition to this, Simons taught at the University of Applied Arts Vienna for some time until he felt that his work load increased while working for Jil Sander. Moreover, he has curated many exhibitions, such as The Fourth Sex, and Guided by Heroes. The publications released with them were edited by Francesco Bonami and Simons. He also curated The Avant-Garde Diaries: Transmission 1, with Mercedes Benz, that featured the work of Peter de Potter, Konstantin Grcic and Peter Saville. In 2001, Simons was the guest editor of the i-D magazine.