Reprinted from: WWD International Fashion News
Not ending, let alone giving up. The choice of Raf Simons should be regarded as his timely adjustment of his personal career, and his response and judgment to the “shape and trend” of the fashion business system.
As Andrew Groves, director of the men’s wear reference room at the University of Westminster, said, Raf Simons’s eponymous brand has been the driving force of his career in the past 27 years, and it is also an important way for him to express his creativity and self and communicate with the world. He also said: “The choice of Raf Simons to close his namesake brand, I think it is also a kind of prelude to the future, which will inevitably usher in some unusual and even surprising possibilities.”
Raf Simons, who has left many iconic creations in the fashion industry, is certainly no stranger to the industry, but when he closed his 27-year-old personal brand and completely entered the public eye, he began to “break the circle” in a real sense. The industry should also start new thinking and understanding of the designer’s choice.
Raf Simons, 54 years old this year, was born in Belgium in 1968. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp in 1991, majoring in industrial and furniture design. After graduation, he initially worked in furniture design. The influence of the Antwerp Six Gentlemen on the international fashion map, as well as the encouragement and promotion of Linda Loppa, who graduated from the Art Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and served as a professor ten years later, Raf Simons’ career has shifted from furniture to fashion. .
Since then, Raf Simons has gradually shined in the fashion field. Since launching his eponymous brand in 1995, he has successively held creative positions at Jil Sander, Christian Dior, and Calvin Klein. Since 2020, he has been co-chaired by Muccia Prada Co-creative director of Italian luxury brand Prada.
By breaking through the creative techniques of the traditional fashion framework, Raf Simons has continuously transformed aesthetic expressions such as minimalism and futurism into contemporary and avant-garde design concepts and craft tailoring; Love makes Raf Simons bring breakthroughs to traditional men’s wear and interpret more diverse masculinity through the shaping of different contemporary youth images.
It is the past achievements from aesthetics to market influence, etc., which not only make Raf Simons get the praise and attention of many critics and media, but also the recognition of many fashion design industry peers and design scholars. Over the past 27 years, Raf Simons’ personal brand has cooperated with Fred Perry, Kvadrat, Eastpak, adidas and other brands.
A number of cutting-edge designers also expressed affirmation and tribute to Raf Simons’ works. For example, designer Yueqi Qi thinks, “In the past 27 years, he has made his works to the extreme, expressing himself freely.” Designer Susan in the “GDF Sustainable Designers Alliance” thinks, “Raf, who leads the cultural trend Simons has always had a clear and strong idea, and even when he was the creative director of different brands, he would pay attention to innovation and bring new classic designs to the brand from a new perspective.”
Gary, Purchasing Director of Shine multi-brand stores from the front line of the market, also expressed the knowledge and feedback from professionals to the Chinese version of WWD: “Raf Simons, as a Belgian brand, has a distinctive style. It is highly anticipated, and buyers from all over the world are always shocked by his creativity in his show.”
It is also precisely because of his rich creative achievements and recognition from the fashion industry in the past, when we face the event of Raf Simons closing his personal brand of the same name, in addition to the same uproar and regret, perhaps we should see The “shape and potential” reflected behind the incident — With the development and evolution of the fashion industry in the past decades or even hundreds of years, personal creativity has always been closely related to those with strong market share, crowd coverage, and group management capabilities. The fashion business system is constantly colliding, grinding, and then looking for a state of balance.
Whether it is Raf Simons, or Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela who have also left the brand of the same name; and Karl Lagerfeld, Jonathan Anderson, and Matthew M who also hold several positions. Designers such as Williams, in the process of constantly balancing personal creativity and business systems, do not achieve it overnight, but through exploration, trial, and even lingering again and again, in order to continuously approach the balance point between personal creativity and business systems.
In fact, there are not a few designers who are constantly looking for a balance between the center of the fashion business system and insisting on personal pioneering creativity. The different growth stages of different individual designers, accompanied by the continuous iterative evolution of the fashion business system and the aesthetic trend of the times, also present a report card of different orientations.
But no matter what direction and result it is, there is no distinction between good and bad, but it can be called experience.
First of all, even Raf Simons, at different stages of his career development, has experienced the brilliance and stand out when he first entered the fashion field, and gained a wider range of popularity and recognition through cooperation with Jil Sander. However, during the three years at Christian Dior from 2012 to 2015 and the short two-year career at Calvin Klein from 2015 to 2018, I personally experienced the running-in and even pressure of personal creativity and business systems.
When the cooperation agreement with Calvin Klein was terminated 8 months ahead of schedule, Emanuel Chirico, chairman and CEO of PVH Group, publicly stated that Calvin Klein, which underwent rebranding under the guidance of Raf Simons, would not work, and said, “Calvin Klein 205W39NYC It needs to be more commercial, and Raf Simons is over budget in many ways.” Raf Simons himself has repeatedly expressed his opposition to commercial-led speeches to the outside world.
Even though the Prada Group, which operates independently as a family business, has relatively independent brand creativity and management rights, through cooperation with Muccia Prada in the past few seasons, both of them also said that the partnership and style fit of the joint creative director are relatively high , They have reached a consensus after the cooperation started in 2020-expressing that they do not agree that the commercial achievements of the fashion industry should be prioritized over creativity. But it is still worth noting that it has only been less than three years since the partnership of the joint creative director was started in 2020, and the future is still a long road that needs to be tested by the macro market and fashion business dominance.
For Karl Lagerfeld, who is in charge of the design of Chanel and Fendi and is in charge of his personal brand of the same name, and Matthew M, who is the seventh creative director of Givenchy and owns his personal brand 1017 ALYX 9SM. Williams, or Loewe creative director, and personal brand JW. According to Jonathan Anderson of Anderson, what they present is another development path that is more balanced between business and design.
After Jonathan Anderson became the creative director of Loewe, he successively launched Puzzle, Flemenco and other explosive handbags favored by the consumer market, which once became a successful model for the renewal of traditional luxury brands. One of the designers who tend to balance power and business.
Since then, through Jonathan Anderson’s continuous injection of diversified aesthetic interests into Loewe, the continuous advancement of artistic attainments such as traditional crafts, and the higher market attention and market share brought to the brand through product line expansion, of course there are also many The series of conglomerate business communication support has enabled the once traditional luxury brand Loewe under LVMH to continuously achieve significant market changes in the past few years.
When releasing the Loewe 2019 spring and summer series, Jonathan Anderson once said that after initially taking over Loewe, it took a whole year to transform everything from the brand identity to the presentation form of the press conference, and said: “I don’t Looking to reinvent Loewe overnight, someone has tried to do that before, but it doesn’t solve the problem. At the same time, I want to keep those things that are inherent in the brand.”
Although LVMH has never disclosed Loewe’s performance separately earlier, in the 2021 fiscal year report period after Jonathan Anderson took over Loewe for nearly 9 years, the brand’s annual sales reached 456.2 million euros, a year-on-year increase of 38%, compared with 2019. The operating profit in 2021 will reach 82.25 million euros, an increase of about 14 times from the 5.5 million euros in the 2020 fiscal year, and nearly double the 44.3 million euros in the 2019 fiscal year.
It is worth mentioning that perhaps the personal brand JW. Under the influence of multiple factors such as the difference in positioning and the relevance of creativity between Anderson and Loewe, the sparks between the two brands under the simultaneous management of Jonathan Anderson are more of a positive promotion effect. Just as there is no lack of talk in the industry that “JW. Anderson has received higher industry attention because of Loewe”, there is also no shortage of sayings such as “Loewe has gained higher social activity due to JW. Anderson”.
As for Karl Lagerfeld, who has been the artistic and creative director of Chanel since 1983 and has been the creative director of Fendi, a luxury brand under LVMH for more than 50 years, in addition to leaving many aesthetic identities developed by him for the two brands, as well as being popular in the market Recognized modern evolution of high fashion – for example, he created the double F Logo representing the meaning of “Fun Furs” for Fendi, and extended the brand’s fur business to diversified product lines such as ready-to-wear; since 1983, he has become Chanel’s art and creative After becoming the director, he built this traditional luxury brand, which was once facing loss of vitality, into one of the most profitable brands. . . . . .
Paying more attention to the career development path created by the comprehensive “business empire” is obviously another way to balance creativity and fashion business centers, but at the same time retains the freedom and free expression of his own brand of the same name.
The fashion industry will always need designers with creative endowments, and the fashion business system needs more designers with pioneering characteristics to bring continuous creativity to different brands and product lines.
This is also the reason why many designer awards held by luxury groups or brands have always existed; luxury groups with rich experience in brand operations and strong capital strength are making efforts in the market in many ways, and are also investing in the form of funds. Incubate more outstanding creative people.
But in the post-epidemic era, both designers and fashion brands are facing new challenges. On the one hand, the more severe market has brought about changes in the demand side, and on the other hand, the inflation problem has brought about problems such as rising costs. Therefore, how to face up to the complex relationship between personal creativity and business systems, and constantly seek a balance, is bound to remain an issue that the global fashion industry needs to face objectively in the future.
The same is true for the Chinese fashion industry. The subsequent judgments and adjustments of those Chinese independent designers who also have pioneering creative features are related to the development potential of the Chinese fashion industry on the international stage and the right to compete in the future.
“Art is perceptual, business is rational. The fact that Raf Simons has become an irreplaceable designer in everyone’s mind is enough to show that he has always been in a highly balanced position between art and business. Art and business and For me, it’s like playing the piano. The melody of the left and right hands complement each other and blend together. Although the market is unpredictable, it is difficult for an independent designer to stand firm in the tide. But in fact, the difficulty is not business, It’s about not following the trend in the face of commercial interests. The difficulty is not being willing to become a so-called “replacement”. Therefore, Raf Simons has given me a lot of inspiration. The road to life is long, and I hope to be decisive in every chapter of my life. Chic.”
“In the era when the overall economy is showing a downward trend, a mature brand like Raf Simons needs a lot of money and time to complete the overall operation. At present, there are endless similar competing products in the market, and there is no shortage of ‘explosions’ of subculture + young people’s attitudes. style’. In this case, relying on a more mature luxury “empire” can not only protect the designer’s “art dream”, continue to bring better works to more people, but also not let oneself The brand is coerced by the market and capital. For designers, they should always insist on not blindly expanding the scale, thinking about product design from the perspective of the market, and creating phenomenal works that fit the market. When a single product is recognized by more people See, the culture it represents will become fashion and trend.”
“Raf Simons must have made the happiest choice he thought. In the last season of his personal brand, many students watched it, which made people feel that he was embracing his fans and the media that had always supported him. In China, the economic There is a new trend in consumption and consumption. The lifestyle is unstable and the consumer group is still avant-garde. As a designer, how to achieve a balance among them is a proposition of the times. We will put the center of clothing abroad, but lifestyle, virtual design and In terms of experience and senses, it will still be released simultaneously in China.”
“Designer brands expect to achieve continuous output in design creation and steady development of brand management at the same time. But we also hope that our designs will not be influenced by the mainstream preferences of the consumer market. We believe that only by persisting in the improvement of brand core design Improve and strengthen the public awareness of the brand.”
“The Raf Simons brand will not disappear from now on, and will definitely be reborn at a certain time. Today, it is extremely difficult to create a century-old brand. It requires not only the infinite extension of creativity, but also the clear rhythm of commercial steps combined with creative output Planning, to keep the brand fresh and attractive. Most of the designer brands in China today are positioned as light luxury, and the creativity is led by Europe. In fact, there is very fierce competition and an involution This is a question worth thinking about. In the ever-changing market environment, we choose the setting of avant-garde design in the early stage to let the brand have an artistic display, gradually adjust the price mechanism, launch the high-end series in the later stage, and hold brand art, The exhibition of culture and trends, and the annual commercial precipitation, have a clear strategic plan and firm pace.”
“Under the influence of the epidemic, many hidden problems have emerged in the retail market, buyer stores and even the fashion industry. When the current situation of high-frequency setbacks in links such as rising costs, resumption of production, ordering channels, and store operations will bring many deep-seated problems to the surface Raf Simons has not performed very well in Asian markets other than Japan, so it is a rational choice for the designer to decide to close the store at this time.”
The day after Raf Simons shut down his personal label, news broke that Prada had hired a Dior fashion executive as CEO. In addition, according to WWD’s exclusive news, the store manager of Le Bon Marshall Moynat has also been invited to join Prada as a retail training instructor in France, Belgium and Monaco. Perhaps, in addition to many emerging news, there are many outstanding professionals in the industry who are being paid by Prada.
“Fashion giants” such as Prada are constantly attracting talented designers. Between luxury and independent brands, there are Karl Lagerfeld who have both, Raf Simons who has made a new choice after 27 years, and former Céline designer Phoebe Philo who has been rumored for many years that “the upcoming release “Personal luxury brands”, like the members of the “GDF Sustainable Fashion Designers Alliance”, have come out of luxury brands and insisted on the route of independent designers. Behind every choice lies an individual’s judgment on the situation of the times.
Sizing up the situation, for every talented designer, everyone will have different answers on how to adjust their choices in the face of the big situation. Raf Simons offers one approach that’s worth following, but it’s not the only one. With the evolution of the times, more creative people emerge, and there will be more different choices in the future. Raf Simons’ personal brand may also make a comeback in the future. But the problem will always point to a core essence – how individuals get along with the general situation of the times. WWD
Written by Du Mingwei and Li Jun
Material support Bai Yujia
Image source network and official designer