For two decades now, Raf Simons has consistently been one of the buzziest designers in fashion. Despite being part of the establishment — he’s one-half of the creative duo at Prada, and has been the top designer at Calvin Klein, Dior, and Jil Sander — he has always presented a vision of fashion that swims against the mainstream. But, according to Simons, who is one of many people on i-D’s spring cover titled, “The Utopia in Dystopia Issue,” he almost didn’t go into fashion. In the i-D interview, which also includes photographer Willy Vanderperre and stylist Olivier Rizzo, both of whom grew up with Simons, Prada’s co-creative director recalls a period in the early ‘90s when, after graduating with a focus in furniture design — not fashion — he made an about-face.
During Vanderperre and Rizzo’s graduation shows in June 1993 from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, Simons came to a realization: “What the fuck did I do with my education? Industrial design? I don’t give a shit. I want to do fashion.” “When Olivier’s collection went on stage, I crashed,” he told i-D. “I still can’t talk about it.”
“What the fuck did I do with my education? Industrial design? I don’t give a shit. I want to do fashion.”
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This show presents another origin story to Simons' career than the widely known anecdote about his first Paris Fashion Week show: While interning with noted designer and member of the Antwerp Six, Walter Van Beirendonck, Simons accompanied his boss to see the now-iconic spring ‘90 Margiela show where media and editors were joined by children from the local community in the first-come first-serve front row, and models walked through an old, dirt playground. “This show changed everything for me,” Simons told Business of Fashion.
But according to i-D, the Margiela show was nothing compared to seeing Rizzo’s graduate collection: “From an emotional point of view, I think wanting to be a fashion designer was very connected to that moment of seeing Olivier’s graduation show.”
Simons went on to found his own menswear line two years later, showing it in the form of an 8mm film. Another two and a half decades, and Simons just released another film presentation, this time, the fall ‘21 womenswear collection for Prada, where he works opposite Mrs. Prada herself. History has a way of repeating itself that way.