Raf Simons, the prolific Belgian fashion designer known for his inventive streetwear collections and youth-oriented designs, has been appointed as co-creator of Prada after his short stint at Calvin Klein. He is known for his ability to transform already legendary houses, and his time at Calvin Klein was marked with one of the best-received fashion shows of the 2010s.
Prada, the famed Milan-based fashion house currently headed by Miuccia Prada, has long been in need of the new breath of Simons. Miuccia Prada was once known for her out-of-the-box styling and embracing “ugly chic,” but many of her recent shows have been marked by basic tropes already exhausted by other designers. Her “ugly chic” aesthetic has also become tired to many, who now see her collections as just ugly.
Simons began his career in furniture design, and became inspired to join the fashion industry after seeing Maison Margiela’s all-white show in 1991. He launched his own label, “Raf Simons,” in 1995. Simons was immediately marked as an innovator for his use of models from the street, and his homages to European skater culture. He became the creative director for Jil Sander, a German fashion house known for minimalism, in 2005. In 2012, he took over at Christian Dior, where he was hailed for taking the brand back to its glory days by championing its 1950s style. After three years at Dior, he was named the Chief Creative Officer of Calvin Klein, where he stayed for two years.
Simons’ time at Calvin Klein was predicted to be simply iconic and that’s what it ended up being. People were excited to see how he would work with an American house for the first time in his career. His first show with Calvin Klein was universally acclaimed by the fashion world — the Fall 2017 show was marked by its vibrant patterns and textures, while also paying homage to the label through leather and denim.
Simons truly began his American career when the rap world got ahold of him. Kanye West had followed and hailed Simons since his time at Jil Sander and credits him for his inspiration for the album “808s” and “Heartbreak.” In 2017, A$AP Mob released a song called “RAF,” with verses from Quavo, Frank Ocean, Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti. It’s almost impossible to find any Raf Simons show from the last few years without A$AP Rocky sitting in the front row. Simons’ Adidas collaboration from 2013 is still a streetwear mainstay.
Simons’ career has not gone without controversy, however. During his time at Dior, his runway shows were called out for being noticeably white, to an extent that felt deliberate. Before Simons, the Dior shows had been hailed for their diverse and multicultural approach, which made his change in casting even more jarring.
Simons, as a designer, has been constantly evolving for decades now; however, one thing that never changes is his attention to detail, craft and inventive nature. As he moves on to a new challenge at Prada, fans of fashion hope that we won’t lose our Raf.