Retailers React to Raf Simons Brand Closure

Buyers from leading retailers in fashion capitals paid their tributes on Tuesday after learning about the closure of Raf Simons’ namesake label.

The Belgian fashion designer shared the news Monday on Instagram. The spring 2023 show staged during Frieze London last month marks the designer’s last collection for his own brand.

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“I lack the words to share how proud I am of all that we have achieved. I am grateful for the incredible support from my team, from my collaborators, from the press and buyers, from my friends and family, and from our devoted fans and loyal followers. Thank you all, for believing in our vision and for believing in me,” the designer said.

Simons launched his namesake label in 1995, working on it while simultaneously holding positions at Jil Sander, Dior, Calvin Klein and Prada, where he has been co-creative director since February 2020.

Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, recalled the day he attended Simons’ first runway show in Paris for the brand’s fall 1997 season, where the designer presented a punk-infused take on collegiate style.

“I can still envision the voluminous gray flannel pants puddling over All-Star style sneakers, fitted Ts with school seals and trim jackets already sprouting his soon-to-be-signature micro lapels. His play on the classic proportions of menswear was clear even then and his impact on the menswear world was quite immediate.

“While he certainly had stylistic signatures such as his early career skinny suits, voluminous pants and ever-present proportion play, his clear, exacting aesthetic and execution was a through line in his career,” Pask said.

It’s almost impossible to single out one career-defining collection since, according to Pask, Simons has “staged so many memorable presentations over the course of his career.”

“His monumental runway show on the ramps of the giant geodesic dome in the Parc de la Villette in Paris, with models staggered at great lengths, descending almost robotically in early iterations of his sharp skinny suits was quite legendary.

“He celebrated his collection’s 10th anniversary as a guest designer at Pitti Uomo with a sprawling show held throughout the Boboli Gardens. His shows were simply can’t-miss occasions despite the often late-night journeys to the outskirts of Paris, [with the most recent one being the spring 2019 show held at Montreuil, east of Paris,]” recalled Pask.

For Alessio Cuozzo, head of buying at the Italian online shop Modes, Simons “subverted the conventions of luxury, becoming the poster child of deconstructed fashion.”

“By imposing youth subcultures at the center of its creative universe, Raf Simons pioneered androgynous silhouettes intersecting the lines between gender, social and cultural borders,” he said. “Over the years, he has created a very loyal fan base, resulting in an influx of customers looking for a conceptual and avant-garde style.”

Bosse Myhr, director of womenswear and menswear at British upmarket retailer Selfridges, said Simons and his namesake brand have provided “constant inspiration and a glimpse into the future” for him as a buyer.

“He possesses an unrivaled ability to connect with youth culture and evoke nostalgia, taking us back to the ‘nineties’90s and the techno music scene in a world of pre-social media, when information was not as readily available as it is today,” said Myhr. “The early 2000s collections laid some of the cornerstones for how people dress to the present day, whether this is sharp tailoring, streetwear or highly evolved avant-garde fashion, the Raf Simons shows were always on point and the demand was huge.”

For Selfridges, Myhr thinks Simons is “a visionary and the closure feels like a big loss to us as a retailer but will always remain a huge source of inspiration and vision.” He added that “Raf Simons archive pieces, which have already achieved grail status, will now be more desirable than ever.”

Federica Montelli, head of fashion at the Italian department store chain Rinascente, said it’s “saddening news for us industry professionals and fans of him, but it also triggers two considerations.”

“First is how much independent brands can survive within a market environment dominated by conglomerates and luxury groups with marquee designers,” added Montelli. “The second one is Prada’s succession plan — is this the first sign that Miuccia Prada is handing the baton? Simons is a designer who marked the past 20 years conjuring a distinctive look for his own brand and at Jil Sander — his best tenure in my opinion — Dior and Calvin Klein.”

Continuing, Montelli said, “His work at Prada is increasingly convincing season after season. However, tasked with interpreting, albeit subversively, another brand’s codes, he will hardly be as free as he was with his own label.”

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