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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Raf Simons Menswear S/S13

Then, now, next – Raf Simons talks to Dazed, reflecting on his stellar collection, Dior couture, LA artist Brian Calvin and grunge

As Raf Simons takes the great (and much anticipated step) into the world of Dior, starting at the pinnacle, haute couture, this season's collection under his own name was one that was very much about the influential designer looking back at his own history as well as his current outlook. Known for consistently pushing things forward, with both aesthetic and ideology over the past 17 years, Simons has gone from rebellious and oversized silhouettes through to tailored, fitted and defined ones. With Nirvana playing softly pre-show, a nod to where he has gone previously and a precursor to the grunge leitmotifs (florals, greasy emo hair) of this collection, the opening looks were delivered to the abrasive, pumping sound of Green Velvet's La La Land. Femininity and masculinity interplayed as florals sat with astute cuts, bold colour blocking and prints designed by Brian Calvin, a Los Angeles artist Raf has collected for some time. Then there were the shorts with their miniskirteque slits. It was a collection of references tantalisingly between past and future.

Dazed Digital: How do feel after the show? Are you relaxed?
Raf Simons:
I'm not so stressed about the whole thing now. It's less stressful when the environment is very comfortable. My team and the people I work with in Antwerp who know my vision well and I have to say on the whole it is a very warm nest.

DD: What were the ideas that influenced you while working on this collection?
Raf Simons:
I think the change with my nomination at Dior made me think a lot about what I was sitting with for the last 17 years, Raf Simons as a brand. What did I do and how does that fit against the juxtaposition of the scaling up of position that is Dior and Dior Couture? I found that a challenge, because that slightly rougher ethos is what I have always been about and that is what people like about me. I started out with a sense of rebellion, with elements of youth culture and of music, but that part of me has grown up. Both in the way what I am producing is crafted and in the way that it is produced.

Dazed Digital: What references did you want to incorporate from your history?
Raf Simons:
References to music and youth of course, the way that I grew up, the way I used to live my life and how I started the brand. It was very much related to kids, clubs, bands, the idea of wildness in a way. But on the other hand, I am grown up and I am dealing with another part of fashion and that is now what attracts me. It was the combination of those juxtaposing elements. I wanted to use the two different aspects to discover something that new, interesting and challenging. There was a nostalgic feeling but also a futuristic feeling, in psychology but also in materialisation.

DD: Do you think your couture work has influenced your menswear?
Raf Simons:
I think so, it has definitely made me think things over. The way that things can be materialised but also maybe attitude wise. I'm not sure if that is to do with the nomination though, I feel that men are currently interested in the way that womenswear is made and produced. How the clothes look, how the clothes are shaped and how they are materialised. That is something that I was very focused on in this show. I also have to say that I think the tendency with this focus in other brands is to end up with the same ideas, you know, the same pleated, mini dress shorts. You can't do that, I'm sorry. It is a Comme des Garçons thing. It has its place, stay away from it.

DD: How do you reference but give new meaning?
Raf Simons:
I looked at Nirvana again and the grunge scene with its flower dresses and its oversized style. I obviously didn't want my men to walk in a flower dress though, I am not claiming grunge because Marc Jacobs did a grunge collection back in the day. It's not about that, it's about the juxtaposition of futurism and the typical Raf Simons thing of what I feel is happening right now in fashion. That is where the combination of the pleated and floral backs of the coats came in, it is a flower dress but it is not anymore, because if you look at the boy wearing it, it is a tailored man's coat.

DD: What is the future of Raf Simons?
Raf Simons:
I am in an interestingly awkward position between my two directions, that I am very excited about. Yes, with one house I am going to be looking at what people want to wear, a well produced garment that is going to sell. But I also like to look at what is to come, what perhaps people are not ready for yet. I want to create a dialogue. With this collection I feel that people loved it, but if they had not loved it, there would have still been a dialogue. And the dialogue would have been interesting.

DD: Do you think that with the feminine influence you were discussing earlier and have been referencing in this collection, it is a way that men can rebel again?
Raf Simons:
Maybe. I think it is something that I offer as a possibility now but I am not the only one doing it. For me I think really, currently, it is about a sense of relaxedness. With the hair for instance, their was control but also there was something very uncontrolled about it. LA interests me, the whole band scene and relaxed carefree feel, but it does not mean you have to dress like a hippy. For me that is modern, that is futuristic. That is where Brian Calvin's work came in, he paints people that don't really care, they are happy with their environment. Comfortable.