Raf Simons: “Fashion Became Pop…Maybe It Was Nicer When It Was More Elitist”

Over a period of six months, during which Raf Simons was coming to the decision to leave Dior after three and a half years at its helm, he gave a series of interviews to Cathy Horyn. These were destined not for the critic’s main gig, The Cut, but for the fall/winter issue of System, the same Paris-based magazine where Nicolas Ghesquière gave the interview about his time at Balenciaga that would see him sued by parent company Kering for breach of confidentiality.

Days after their last communication and shortly after his spring 2016 collection, Simons made the bombshell announcement of his exit from Dior, basing it on “personal reasons.” The news sent shockwaves through the industry and beyond, for this marriage of house and designer wasn’t supposed to be tumultuous à la John Galliano. Here, as excerpted in Business of Fashion, are Simons’ more salient quotes.

“You know, we did [the fall 2016] collection in three weeks. Tokyo was also done in three weeks. Actually everything is done in three weeks, maximum five. And when I think back to the first couture show for Dior, in July 2012, I was concerned because we only had eight weeks…And now we never have time like that. And you know? It’s clearly possible to do it, if I have my ideas together. The machine is there. Of course, we have to push really hard. It’s not like we think the ideas and mushrooms come out of the ground.”

“When you do six shows a year, there’s not enough time for the whole process. Technically, yes — the people who make the samples, do the stitching, they can do it. But you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important. When you try an idea, you look at it and think, Hmm, let’s put it away for a week and think about it later. But that’s never possible when you have only one team working on all the collections.”

“The problem is when you have only one design team and six collections, there is no more thinking time. And I don’t want to do collections where I’m not thinking. In this system, Pieter [Mulier, Simons’ right hand] and I can’t sit together and brainstorm — no time. I have a schedule every day that begins at 10 in the morning and runs through the day, and every, every minute is filled. From 10.10am to 10.30am, it’s shoes, let’s say. From 10.30 to 11.15, it’s jewellery. Everything is timed — the whole week. If there’s a delay in a meeting, the whole day is fucked up…That’s the life. So we created two design teams. Each group has a person in charge, and these people are fantastic. If Team A is working on cruise, then Team B is working on July couture. Then Team A will start working on the Fall ready-to-wear show. So each group does one couture show and one ready-to-wear show.””

“Technically speaking, [this system] works. Does it work for me emotionally? No, because I’m not the kind of person who likes to do things so fast. I think if I had more time, I would reject more things, and bring other ideas or concepts in. But that’s also not necessarily better. Sometimes you can work things to death when you take too much time.”

“Fashion became pop. I can’t make up my mind if that’s a good or a bad thing. The only thing I know is that it used to be elitist. And I don’t know if one should be ashamed or not to admit that maybe it was nicer when it was more elitist, not for everybody. Now high fashion is for everybody.”

“Everything is so easily accessible, and because of that you don’t make a lot of effort anymore. When we were young, you had to make up your mind to investigate something — because it took time. You really had to search and dig deep. Now if something interests you, one second later, you can have it. And also one second later you also drop it.”

“There’s never enough time. You get a tension. I know how to pull out from this in my personal life. We go and look at nature for three hours. It’s heaven. We go to a bakery and buy a bag of stuff and lie in the grass. Sublime. But how to do that in the context of your professional life? You buy a house and you start doing pottery or something?”

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