In the event you’re beneath the age of 40, it’s very probably that your first Raf Simons piece was additionally your first grail (or vice versa). I keep in mind mine: I used to be purchasing in a really preppy, now defunct, secondhand clothes retailer in Soho in 2016, when I discovered two (TWO!!!) Raf Simons tunic tops from the Spring 2014 assortment, when he went tremendous pop and printed wavy, optimistic phrases that felt pulled from Nineteen Fifties journal advertisements onto polyester tunics and T-shirts. They have been on sale for $50 (clearly, nobody on the retailer knew what that they had on their arms; I’ve seen the items on Grailed for $400). I keep in mind the particular thrill on the finds, and the thrill I felt at proudly owning these items of menswear historical past that is likely to be recognizable solely to the only a few.
I’ve gotten an Alaia sweater for $300 and a never-produced Hood By Air jacket for $150, however these are the items which might be most particular to me. Such is the magic of the chilly, intense, and appealingly uncooked Raf Simons model.
Simons shocked the style business yesterday when he introduced that his model, which he launched 27 years in the past, would shutter. There will likely be no fancy fanfare or finale assortment; the Spring 2023 present that he staged in London in October (rescheduled from London Vogue Week after the Queen’s dying) will merely be his final. “I lack the phrases to share how proud I’m of all that we now have achieved,” the Instagram announcement learn.
After I known as David Casavant, a Simons-ologist and certainly one of menswear’s most avid archivists, he was stunned, though admitted, “I’ve actually given up on being stunned or placing an excessive amount of emotion [into] issues that occur with style ‘trigger it’s at all times altering.” And anyhow, “He’s nonetheless principally an artist, so who is aware of what occurs, however at the least it’s physique of labor to finish on.”
He’s proper—Simons will stay in his position as co-creative director at Prada, the place his affect is just stronger with every assortment. However Simons’s model represents a variety of style firsts, particularly for menswear, the place bigger business shifts more and more begin. (Simons himself charted the menswear insider-to-womenswear disruptor pipeline: he was plugged in at Jil Sander, then Christian Dior, then took over at Calvin Klein, and now, in fact, is put in at Prada.) His first collections, within the mid-90s, marked the introduction of thin tailoring, and he was exceptional from the start for his give attention to menswear alone. The garments weren’t only for males, however about them. They have been chilly and exact of their strains, however they have been a lot about emotions—the form of misplaced, inarticulable anger that usually appears to accompany younger manhood. You would at all times sense emotion prickling or trudging beneath these clear and tight silhouettes. He made the case that designing menswear, with out the buoy of a girls’s enterprise, was necessary.
Simons was additionally the designer who, together with Helmut Lang and Hedi Slimane, impressed the concept of treating clothes as collectible objects. It’s exhausting to think about Grailed or the transformation of style right into a pop cultural phenomenon by the hands of rappers like A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar—and even the archival style motion presently sweeping the ladies’s aspect of the enterprise—with out Simons’s designs.
And Simons stays the archival designer in scorching demand on the boys’s market. That was true even earlier than this announcement, Casavant advised me: “After I was first amassing, Dior males [by Hedi Slimane] would resell for actually excessive, and it wasn’t inexpensive to purchase retail, and Raf was. And now it’s flipped. Raf is far more costly.” Casavant lately began promoting a small collection of his archive at Dover Avenue Market in New York, which is the primary time his assortment, which is generally utilized by editorial and celeb purchasers, has been “out there” or accessible to the general public. What he’s seen is that Simons’s designs have solely garnered an increasing number of demand. Casavant stated his physician lately requested, throughout an appointment, if his teenage nephew may come to Casavant’s workplace and see his archive of Simons’s clothes.
This wasn’t by Simons’s design, in fact, although he stated in a 2018 discuss at Harvard College that he cherished the best way Grailed customers handled purchasing and buying his clothes. In 2020, he re-released various his archival items (which, as Casavant identified to me, solely made the unique items extra helpful). So what has made them so collectible? Casavant speculates that it has one thing to do with how Simons’s profession developed. Whereas it might have helped a designer like Slimane to have the Dior model title behind him, “so it already had that historical past and cache,” Simons’s rising profile, with main appointments at European and American homes, led style followers to find his again catalog of items that, for the primary decade or so of the model’s existence, spoke largely to a small viewers of menswear cognoscenti.
I doubt a designer can have that form of trajectory anymore. Simons constructed his enterprise up as a cult one, and it wasn’t till he began making girls’s clothes that he was launched extra extensively to the world. More and more, designers launch their very own model with a significant home appointment as their objective; they typically say it’s essential to their very own model’s monetary survival.
In all probability, too, his extraordinarily emotional garments enchantment to younger males who solely really feel an increasing number of the issues behind Simons’s early collections, fueled by the music of bands like INXS and Pleasure Division. Simons has been a frequent critic of the style system, suggesting in a number of interviews over time that the style calendar leaves little time for the event of actual concepts. When he left Dior, for instance, he acknowledged that he wished to give attention to his personal model. Now, working with Mrs. Prada, evidently for the primary time his personal concepts might be extra firmly articulated in his huge model appointment. “It’s not like he died,” as Casavant advised me.
Possibly he may have appointed a Kiko Kostadinov or a Samuel Ross to take over the model. However it’s extra Simons—extra punk, extra decisive, extra capricious, extra inventive—to easily say goodbye relatively than try and Frankenstein a younger new designer into the position. As soon as once more, he’s main us to consider how we’d have a look at issues one other method; what’s the worth of an excellent private model if the one that poured their coronary heart into it isn’t there to do it anymore?
Rachel Tashjian is the Vogue Information Director at Harper’s Bazaar, working throughout print and digital platforms. Beforehand, she was GQ’s first style critic, and labored as deputy editor of GARAGE and as a author at Vainness Honest. She has written for publications together with Bookforum and Artforum, and is the creator of the invitation-only e-newsletter Opulent Suggestions.