Raf Simons has kept a low profile since leaving his position as Calvin Klein’s chief creative officer last December. This past weekend, he made his first public appearance in a year, with an insightful talk at “Fashion Talks” in his hometown, Antwerp, Belgium. Simons gave the audience insight into the pressure he was under not just at Calvin Klein, but in all of his stints as creative director (Simons worked at Jil Sander and Christian Dior before Calvin Klein). Simons said so much of a designer’s success at a brand comes down to being good at marketing and growth, while also creating a sellable product. “I am definitely not good at all the aspects,” WWD reported Simons said. “I know for myself.”
Now, Simons says he is more fascinated by what he’s watching on television than what he is seeing on designer runways. “Today, I find fewer things new,” he said. “At the end of the ‘80s, when I started looking, and then during your studies, and then when I started going into it, I thought everything was new.” He is specifically referring to Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons, among others who kept fashion fresh. “It’s all so avant-garde, so extreme, and that I miss a lot,” he continued.
Exciting things catch his attention here or there, he told the audience, but Simons feels more passionate about what he’s watching on TV. “You can ask my team. Every day I talk about television series. I think there are so many people bringing daring TV shows, controversial topics, incredible new ways of making and building scenarios,” he added.
Simons said that he felt stressed having to constantly act as a personality for the brand and actually design all of the clothes. “When I was at Dior, I felt there was an incredible pressure from the outside on me to be with me while I was designing, while I was in the studio,” he said, referring to the press who wanted to be there to report every step on the way. “It was mainly because one designer was very much at ease with it. I don’t criticise people from doing it, but because other people do something, it should not be a system for everybody,” said Simons, seemingly referring to the late Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, who was able to design 14 different collections a year and never shied away from sharing himself with fashion media.
As for what’s next, Simons hopes to remain unaffected by the fashion industry’s idea of what makes a profitable designer. He wants to stay young in the way he thinks, and not give in so easily to brands with a rigid definition of commercial success. He challenges brands not to “fall flat,” but to remain as interesting and creative as when they first launched.