Raf Simons Thinks Fashion's Obsession with Speed Is Strangling Creativity
The fashion world is in a risky place. With designers like Hedi Slimane and Alexander Wang treating top posts at big brands like temporary assignments, Instagram fueling a 24/7 street style surveillance state, and fast fashion and haute couture becoming increasingly indistinguishable, established brands are playing catch up by releasing more product, more often. Sure, it helps grow profits, but it also creates an industry where high-end design is becoming ephemeral-or worse, disposable. And Dior-defector Raf Simons finds it all so repulsive he has turned to upholstery instead.
"Having the timeline of a year is like heaven for me because at Christian Dior I used to do eight collections a year and each collection could contain up to 150 fabrics," he said in a Telegraph interview about his new collaboration with Danish textile house Kvadrat. "I've done three fabrics this year for Kvadrat and I really, really pay attention to it. It's beautiful to be able to give a project substantial incubation time. When I did fabrics at Dior I had to choose them within a couple of hours sometimes–seeing everything, deciding, making colour palettes…then hoopla–launch."
Although his designs for both Dior and Kvadrat have price tags attached, Simons doesn't feel the same sense of sales pressure and creative constraint that he did in the fashion world: "There's no hurry. It's very different to how things work in fashion right now. Of course everybody's happy if it's successful, but not once have [the Kvadrat team] ever said to me, 'this is our expectation'. Never. They believe in me, I believe in them and it's a marriage. It's in their nature to collaborate with creative animals."
He also sniffed at the intellectual strangulation brought upon by social media. "These days it's a different way of consuming [culture]," he said. "It's now looking and then swiping to the next thing–looking, next; looking, next; looking, next; next, next, next, next–there's less dialogue and engagement with it in general." Does he sound a bit like Grandpa complaining about the kids these days? Sure. But he has a point: "There weren't that many things reaching us, so that when we picked up on something, we went in-depth. We would investigate, we'd follow, try to understand…whether we liked it or hated it we would still have a conversation about it."
And though he acknowledges the ability of social media to jumpstart some cupboard-dwelling sartorial Harry Potter to Runway Chosen One-"When you are just a kid from the streets somewhere you start slowly, maybe with just two people watching and then 10 and 50 and 100. These days that can grow really fast. Suddenly millions of people are watching." -he also laments the stifling of baby brands in an increasingly commodified industry.
"Everyone is paying attention to the wrong thing in my opinion," he said. "There's this huge debate about 'Oh my God, should we sell the garments the day after the show or three days after the show or should we tweet it in this way or Instagram it in that way?'…You know, all that kind of bullshit. Will all that stuff still be relevant 30 years from now? I don't think so. "
Read the full interview here.