In a surprising announcement, Raf Simons, the Belgian fashion superstar and co-creative director of Prada, stated that he is closing his namesake. “I am at a loss for words to express how proud I am of all that we have accomplished,” he wrote in one Instagram posts on Monday. The spring-summer 2023 show, to be held in London in October, will be the brand’s last. “I am grateful for the incredible support from my team, from my collaborators, from the press and buyers, from my friends and family, and from our devoted fans and loyal followers,” said Simons.
And what a following he had. Although Raf Simons (the designer) has surpassed Raf Simons (the brand) in impact and influence in recent years, it’s honestly hard to imagine a men’s model landscape without his semi-annual broadcasts from the cult realms of youth culture. Joy Division and Sonic Youth, Christian F. and Blade Runner, Sterling Ruby and Robert Mapplethorpe, underground raves and more recently the flower power hippie movement: all provided ample conceptual and graphic inspiration. Founded in Antwerp in 1995, the line had a strong insider following as well as broad pop culture relevance; it was a hit in the art world from the jump and eventually in the hip hop community. The 2017 song “RAF” by A$AP Mob is a love letter from some of his biggest fans: Playboi Carti, Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert, Frank Ocean and A$AP Rocky, who often refer to Simons as his father.
Simons did not detail exactly why he is closing his line, though he has long expressed frustration with the relentless pace of the modern fashion system. At Christian Dior, which he led from 2012 to 2015, Simons was responsible for six shows a year in addition to his Antwerp-based line. As he Cathy Horyn said at that point, with a schedule like that, “you have no incubation time for ideas, and incubation time is very important.” He joined Prada in 2020; there he and Miuccia Prada are responsible for at least four collections a year. Perhaps Simons, an art enthusiast known for protecting his personal life, felt it was time to focus his efforts.
Or perhaps he recognizes commercial realities. Anecdotally, Raf’s heads seem to have followed him to Prada, where Simons has brought his signature oversized outerwear silhouettes and boyish underwear. Meanwhile, a new generation of fashion enthusiasts has been clamoring for archival pieces from significant Raf Simons collections, like fall-winter 2001’s “Riot Riot Riot,” with certain pieces fetching tens of thousands of dollars on the secondary market. Last year, Simons capitalized on this frenzy by re-releasing 100 pieces from the brand’s archive. But clothes from the latest runway collections have been harder to find in stores – and, Kyle Kuzma’s oversized pink sweater aside, barely seen on the street.
For now, Simon’s future seems to lie with Prada, in the homewares he has designed with the Danish textile brand Kvadrat, and in his enduring relationship with the art world. “Thank you all for believing in our vision and for believing in me,” Simons’ statement concluded. At the time of writing, a small selection of Raf Simons pieces are still available on the brand’s website.