Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Posted by Melanie Rickey,  Fashion Editor at Large

Belgian modernist Raf Simons was announced as Creative Director of Christian Dior yesterday, thus bringing to a close the biggest fashion recruitment drama since Tom Ford left the Gucci job vacant back in 2004.

“It is with the utmost respect for its tremendous history, its unparalleled knowledge and craftsmanship that I am joining the magnificent house of Dior. Mr. Christian Dior has always been for me the most inspiring couturier,” Simons said in a statement today. “I am truly humbled and honored to become artistic director of the most celebrated French house in the world.”

His is a truly fascinating and forward thinking appointment that can only mean very fresh and exciting times ahead for Christian Dior's overall women and men's business. Not least because of the stark differences between Dior's former Kingpin John Galliano and the incoming Simons who will put on his first Dior show for the Haute Couture in July.

As designers and personalities, John and Raf are chalk and cheese. While John Galliano is a dramatic, historical dress-loving romantic and rough diamond geezer genius, Raf Simons is -  according to those I've spoken to who have worked directly with him - a clinically organised, philosophically minded and deeply emotional man who relishes process and is in a thrall to form, contemporary art and modernity.

Not to mention that one of his favourite ever albums is The XX's amazing 2009 debut, and that the fashion designers he considers his "main people" of influence are Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang in the contemporary arena, and historically Dior and Balenciaga. These traits sit well with Raf Simons' status as one of the world's most highly regarded menswear designers.  His recent women's collections for Jil Sander have been massively influential and critically acclaimed, yet not widely bought and worn.

Raf Simons shot by Willy Vanderperre for W Magazine

For the last two months I've had tear sheets from the March 2012 edition of W Magazine up on my pinboard; a wonderful story Raf worked on with Alice Rawsthorn, the design critic of the International Herald Tribune, called "What Makes Raf Run?".  In the story he details to Alice his lifelong obsessions from music to art to furniture and even the fashion show that moved him to tears.

I have spent all morning reading more deeply about and viewing the work of the artist, ceramicist, furniture designer, film-maker and architect Raf loves, listened to the music he craves and got to know the available multi-layers of the man and his aesthetic taste and have been utterly inspired and shaken awake by the whole experience. Later in this post he talks about a day he drove around L.A to find John Lautner designed houses; I did exactly the same thing a few years ago to see Lautner and Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and went one further booking appointments with estate agents to view one or two, ending up in an awesome empty Lloyd Wright house that was crumbling like Grey Gardens.

All this provides a fascinating insight into the man, and gives tantalising clues into what we may expect to inform his new era at Christian Dior. Certainly from a cultural point of view the brand of Christian Dior is about to a have an earthquake of newness flushed through its veins. I can't wait. In the meantime, meet Raf Simons.

Raf's Favourite EVER Album. Consumed, by Plastikman. A bit of trance, not for dancing. Press PLAY and listen while you read.

"I’m a club kid at heart, and not a day goes by that I don’t listen to Plastikman, aka Richie Hawtin. I first saw Richie years ago, when I was 20-something, at I Love Techno, one of the huge live events we have in Belgium that 60,000 or 70,000 kids go to. He is such a master: the hardest, the best, technologically the most innovative. He grew up near Detroit, so he’s connected to the innovators there, though he spends a lot of time in Berlin now. For years I have had a total obsession with Kraftwerk, and I think Richie is the Kraftwerk of today."

SP58 by Sterling Ruby, 2008 Acrylic and spray paint on canvas/ (via The Saatchi Gallery)

"I started to look at art when I was really, really young—long before I discovered design and fashion—but I didn’t collect it until I began teaching at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in 2000. It was a side job, so I thought I’d use the extra money to buy art, and I decided early on to buy work only from artists of my generation. There were different people coming up at the time, and one of them was Sterling Ruby. He is the artist that I collect the most, and I am very, very happy to have a daily confrontation with it. His work touches so many different disciplines—collage, photography, painting, sculpture, performance. Often you don’t know what you are looking at, but it goes into my head, and it doesn’t come out.”

Michael Clark dancers in the David Bowie tribute  (Will Vanderperre via W Magazine) 

"I discovered Michael Clark in i-D magazine when I was 17 or 18, probably because of his links to Mark E. Smith’s band the Fall. For years I only knew Michael’s work from images; eventually I started to look at films of it on the Internet, but I never saw it live. Last summer I was curating an event for Mercedes in Berlin and realised that I would love for Michael to do something for it. Eventually he said, “Okay, I’ll do it as a tribute to David Bowie.” It brought the whole thing together for me. I didn’t go to the rehearsal. I wanted to wait for the performance, and when I saw it, I found it mind-blowing. So punk. So anarchic. So sculptural. And I was very, very impressed ­technically: The projections were amazing, and Stevie Stewart’s costumes were beautiful. My friends were so moved that some of them were crying. Me too! I cried three times."

Shots from the 1989 playground show by Martin Margiela. From the Maison Martin Margiela book ( Rizzoli 2009)
"The main people for me when I started to look at fashion were Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang.  Historically, Dior and Balenciaga influenced me the most. Nothing in fashion, though, has had more emotional impact on me than Martin Margiela’s third show. It was 1989, and I was an intern for Walter Van Beirendonck.  Martin’s show was in a playground. They’d asked the kids’ parents for permission to use the playground, and they said, “Yes, but only if our kids can come.” The models appeared in long white clothes, and suddenly the kids started to play with them. It was so moving. Everyone was crying. Me too. Martin is the one who made me decide to do fashion—and when he left fashion, I decided to collect his clothes. I know his collections inside out, so I started to build an archive of them alongside my own."

Work by Valentine Schlegel (courtesy Galerie Jacques Lacoste/Mathieu Ferrier)

"I’ve always liked ceramics. The craft is so simple: earth, hands, water. It sounds so stupid to say it, but making something all by yourself with few ingredients can be very powerful. When I started to read books on the subject, I discovered Valentine Schlegel. Her work is beyond genius. It specifically expresses everything I love about ceramics from that period: It has a roughness, along with something sculptural, always in very weird shapes, inspired by seeds and plants. Her work wasn’t industrialized, and she made very little. I only have one piece by her. For years I have been looking for more, but they’re impossible to find." 

"Chemosphere" by John Lautner (via John Lautner Foundation

"The first time I went to Los Angeles, I was determined to see John Lautner’s house, the Chemosphere, so I rented a car. And for two hours we drove up and down Mulholland Drive trying to find it. Eventually I called a friend, the L.A. gallerist Marc Foxx, and he said, “It’s up there. Just look up and you’ll see it.” I was sitting in the car staring up at the hills, and then suddenly there it was.
I like how he integrates furniture into his architecture: Often it’s embedded right into the house, with sofas growing out of the concrete. I find that really beautiful, along with the inside-outside feel of his work. It’s very Americano, of course—but I like Americano."

For the full W Article go here

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